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Facts and Foreign Affairs

ISSUE:  Spring 1930

Survey of International Affairs, 1927. By Arnold J. Toynbee. Issued under the auspices of the Royal Institute of International Affairs. New York: Oxford University Press, $8.50. American Foreign Relations, 1928. American Foreign Relations, 1929. By Charles P. Howland. Published for the Council on Foreign Relations. New Haven: Yale University Press. $5.00 each. International Relations (Revised Edition). By Raymond Leslie Buell. American Political Science Series. New York: Henry Holt and Company. $5.00. The United States and the Caribbean. By Chester Lloyd, Henry Kit-tredge Norton and Parker Thomas Moon. The second volume of “American Policies Abroad” published by the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. $1.50.

The zealous reviewer likes to gnaw at his book, as a dog does with a bone, masticating meat and marrow, spitting out the gristle. Such a course, however, is difficult with the stock on hand before us. Three fat volumes of annual surveys, documented and dispassionate; one encyclopaedic treatise of everything in the field from “XII. International Human-itarianism; the Suppression of Obscene Publications” to “The Outlawry of War”; and a modest “historical statement followed by two points of view.” Even in the case of the last, it would be hard for the reviewer to find a single point to criticise which some one of the three contributors had failed to cover. Let the reviewer then grind out: “These volumes testify to the growing interest of the American Public (their circulation may average a few thousand copies apiece) in international affairs and a recognition of the importance of America’s position in . . .” Or congratulate Dr. Buell on a “genuine contribution to sound scholarship” or (worst of all) ingeniously discover that on page 833, the Chilean delegate Sefior Bas-tada de Bastudo, should have been Sefior Filipa di Filipino. Criticism along such lines was apparently what the compilers of the “American Foreign Relations” fully expected for they, sent an errata sheet posting after their first volume to say that the “1300 aides and experts who accompanied President Wilson to Paris” should have been described as “50 aides and 700 chauffeurs, guards, etc” Having on second thought decided that a chauffeur is neither an aide nor an expert, Dr. Howland’s young men and women demonstrate that they are indeed imbued with a nice sense of the distinctions which constitute historical accuracy.

As the British volume is the fourth, and the American ones the first and second of the two series, which evidently aspire to become annual events, some discussion of their methodology is in order. The date (1927) of the British volume accurately indicates the period which it covers but native deliberation diminishes its usefulness by delaying its appearance until the closing days of 1929. The American volumes on the other hand yield to the impulse which causes the Saturday Evening Post to appear on a Thursday; they close with the January first of the year whose number they, bear; appearing in the following November however, they do pretty well for timeliness, particularly considering the amount of collaboration involved.

The British “Survey of International Affairs” systematically discusses events all over the world, even those like Argentine relations with the Vatican whose concern to Great Britain is indirect. The Survey of “American Foreign Relations” confines itself as its title indicates.

More important is the internal arrangement. The British volume takes up each part of the world and carries forward the story for the year. Dr. Howland and his associates have apparently decided to make each volume treat a different group of subjects. Thus, the first deals historically with “American Foreign Policy”; with “The United States and the League of Nations”; with reparations, debts, the financial aftermath of the war; and with the limitation of armaments. The second deals with the Caribbean and Central America; with the World Court and the Kellogg Pact; and with American immigration policy. These are topics which the editor believes “a culmination of some sort has thrown into high relief or which have come to a stage of temporary arrest and so allow of deliberate examination.” Oh happier world, if only each topic would periodically come to temporary arrest and permit the scholar to make his deliberate examination! But a new arms conference in London follows hard on an account of the one at Geneva: no sooner is Haiti neatly docketed than there’s a stir on the island followed by an investigating Commission.

The American Survey cannot much longer find three fresh topics each year to treat from their beginnings, yet if it declines to bring the story up to date on those which it has already treated, its value as a source of reference will quickly decline.

The weakness of the American method is evident in the treatment of the Geneva conference which occupies only three pages, shrewdly summarizing the causes of failure but giving no details of the respective proposals. The British devotes forty pages to it, an account adequate to serve any reference purpose. And incidentally (credit where credit is due) this account is altogether fair to the American position—a condition of things not always observable in authoritative British treatments of controversial issues despite an attitude of apparent frankness and moderation.

The strongest feature of the American volumes (as of the British) is the high standard of objectivity as well as of relevancy. But there is nothing namby-pamby about this objectivity, vide the seven pages describing by direct quotation the attitudes of the Republican party and its candidates towards the League of Nations during the 1920 election.

The section on Immigration is carefully done. It makes admirably clear the complicated methods of limitation successively in force. But in doing this it rather pushes into the background the description and analysis of the strong and turbulent forces of public sentiment, ranging from Ku Klux Klan to Fascist League, forces which, rather than any technical problems of racial origins, delayed a definite settlement for so long, forced the issue into a Presidential campaign whence it emerged without clarification and produced inconsistencies in the “before” and “after” becoming-a-candidate position of Mr. Hoover—inconsistencies regarding which the “Survey” has been more charitably silent than in its devotion to the minutiae of historical truth in lesser matters.

Dr. Buell has expanded his excellent handbook from 768 to 838 pages without rearrangement of its structure. Yet less than two of these pages is devoted to discussing “Public Opinion and Foreign Affairs.”

Here is the great weakness both in Dr. Buell’s handbook and, as already hinted, in the American Survey as well. Aiming at a logical and objective account—their material mainly, official documents—these scholars fail to consider that what makes public opinion is not the facts eoo post facto but the facts as they, seem, or are made to seem at the time decision is made. Time, proximity, and a modicum of knowledge allow the American voter to form some idea of what a domestic issue is all about but almost never a foreign one. In Great Britain, thanks to a well-developed foreign news service, an opposition containing experienced men and a parliamentary system designed to put responsible officials on, if not a hot spot, at least a fairly warm one, the public is at a lesser disadvantage. In Washington, Borah, King et al are chronically suspicious of the State Department but they find it hard to get facts, and their opposition is obviously attributable to anti-Administration bias. About all they can do is to let off steam occasionally by blocking treaties.

Every Secretary of State from Root to Kellogg and Stimson has pleaded eloquently for public understanding and concern with our foreign affairs. And almost every one of them has issued statements which if the American public ever bothered to check them up, would only serve to convince it of the futility of trying to leam anything about its foreign affairs. Mr. Root made his weighty plea in 1922, yet in 1920 he was among the thirty-one leaders who told the country that Harding and the Republicans would join the League of Nations. Mr. Hughes asks, “Are we to stand by and see American citizens butchered?” ignoring interventions like that in Haiti and Nicaragua where American blood was spilled only after, and not before the intervention was set in motion. President Coolidge, explaining the Nicaragua intervention, states that “no American bankers are directly interested in the Nicaragua indebtedness” . . . yet a loan follows.

No, Dr. Buell, Dr. Howland. It is not those valuable quarterlies, “Foreign Affairs” and the “Annals of the American Academy of Social and Political Science” but the Associated Press and the Saturday Evening Post which do the trick, although they do not appear in your indexes. Professor Toynbee is more of a realist: he quotes freely from the Times, London and New York, and other authoritative papers (in useful footnotes which Dr. Howland in deference to freer modern practice eschews). But even Professor Toynbee fails to recognize the influence of the yellow press or he would not relegate the gun-elevation controversy to a footnote which entirely ignores the capital which Hearst made out of the obtuse British protest.

Professor Moon’s attitude at times suggests that because America’s actions in the Caribbean are frequently hard to bring into logical consistency with the declarations of statesmen responsible for them, the actions are per se bad. But at any rate he calls some attention to how American opinion is made—a theme upon which we hope he or Mr. Laski or Professor Lasswell, or all of them, will continue further to eniighten us. At least it is fun to know how the magician pulls the rabbit out of the hat even if we do not share in the gate receipts.


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