Skip to main content

Plans for World Security

ISSUE:  Autumn 1944

The Great Decision. By James T. Shotwell. The Macmillan Company. $3.00. The Time for Decision. By Sumner Welles. Harper and Brothers. $3.00. U. S. War Aims. By Walter Uppmann. Kittle, Brown and Company. $1.50.

Three very important books by eminent authors in rather different fields have recently attracted wide attention. The first to be published was “The Great Decision,” by Professor James T. Shotwell; the second, “The Time for Decision,” by former Under Secretary of State Sumner Welles; and the third, “U.S. War Aims,” by Walter Lippmann. Professor Shotwell brings to his conclusions of today the history of his experience at the Paris Peace Conference, his experience with the International Labor Organization, and his efforts at Geneva, Paris, and Washington to bolster the League of Nations with the General Act for the Pacific Settlement of Disputes and the Pact of Paris. He also brings the experience of twenty-five years of long and hard work in the field of American education of public opinion.

Professor Shotwell’s book is the most elaborate in its treatment of world organization. All of it is devoted either to the philosophy of such organization or suggestions for its future form. Indeed, there are times in the book when Professor Shotwell leads the reader through almost too great a maze of philosophic dissertations before reaching his conclusion.

Sumner Welles brings to his readers an idealism very similar to Professor Shotwell’s. His experience is that of the trained diplomat, and one of his achievements as a diplomat was to help to shape the good neighbor policy. His account of his visit to the warring nations of Europe in 1940 is one of the most valuable documents of our time. He has portrayed eloquently the cynicism of Mussolini, the brutality of the German leaders, the moral decadence of the French statesmen, and the confusion of the British Government, still groping in the fogs of Stanley Baldwin’s stupid policy carried on to Munich by Neville Chamberlain.

I can understand Sumner Welles’ intuition of French collapse after his interview with Leon Blum. A few days after the Munich settlement I walked the streets of Paris, visiting old street corners and cafes that I had visited when France and her Allies were triumphant, twenty years before. The Paris that to me as an American soldier had been so courageous, a few days after Munich, seemed doomed.

The portion of Mr. Welles’ book devoted to international organization is comparatively small. One wishes that it might have been more elaborate. But Mr. Welles was imposing self-discipline, because of the extensive part he had played in the State Department in the preparations for the creation of the General International Organization.

Professor Shotwell and Mr. Welles believe in the Wilsonian tradition. They believed in the League of Nations, and thought that with American participation, the League could have prevented this war. Both of them would create a much stronger world organization after this war, with stronger obligations to keep the peace, with greater decentralization and recognition of local responsibilities.

Mr. Lippmann’s book is the shortest of the three; his subject matter is more limited; and his conclusions are painted in brief, bold strokes.

I must confess that I follow Professor Shotwell and Mr. Welles with general agreement; naturally, for I am one of those who also supported the League of Nations, and who, in a smaller but nevertheless a real way, lived through the tragedy of the last twenty-five years, part of that time as director of the League of Nations Association. Their hooks are a challenge to strive harder for the fundamental ideals of international organization. Neither Professor Shotwell nor Mr. Welles would return to the old League. Neither has a fixation on the instruments of Geneva. They are neither afraid to depart from them, nor—that which seems equally demanding of courage today—afraid to say wherein the League was good and should not be departed from. It is not by accident that these two men struck upon almost identical titles for their books, “The Great Decision” for one, and “The Time for Decision” for the other.

The fundamental differences between these two books and Mr. Lippmann’s seem superficially to be on the question of regionalism. All three recognize the need of it to a lesser or a greater degree. Professor Shotwell refers to “graded responsibilities,” a theme which he developed more fully in his “On the Rim of the Abyss.” He believes that the nations closest to the scene of difficulty have a primary obligation to maintain the peace. But he maintains that there must be a world system of security superior to the regional organizations.

Mr. Welles has elaborated more fully the idea of an executive council which in the beginning would be provisional, before the world organization is set up, and which would contain eleven seats. Four of these seats would be reserved for the United States, Great Britain, Russia, and China. The other seats would be divided regionally: two for Europe, two for Latin America, one for the Moslem states in the Middle East, one for Asia, one for the British Commonwealth.

Mr. Welles senses that the weakness in the representation of the small states on the League of Nations Council was that the delegate representing each small state considered that he represented his state only. Consequently, the League of Nations Council was not really an executive council in the true sense of the word, because it was not considered as representing other than the states elected to seats. As time went on, there tended to be a representative for the Scandinavian bloc and for the Petite Entente, but the criticism is nevertheless valid. Mr. Welles would have the nations in each region submit a panel of the most distinguished individuals and from this panel individuals would be selected to occupy the seats assigned to these regions on the Council.

I have frequently felt that the only satisfactory way to fill the Council seats would be to choose distinguished individuals without regard to nationality, as the judges of the World Court were chosen. Mr. Welles has approached this solution regionally except for the nationals of the four Great Powers, who would particularly represent their Governments.

Mr. Welles advocates a universal organization, with problems of peace and war settled regionally as much as possible. He recognizes the need for all of the nations of the Western Hemisphere to maintain security there. At the same time he would have an agreement between the four Great Powers for the use of their forces outside of any region for the maintenance of peace anywhere in the world. Here, it seems to me—and it may be because Mr. Welles was not in a position to elaborate further—he neglects the necessity for all of the small states of Europe, and of all the world, to be given some participation in the maintenance of world security.

Mr. Lippmann would reverse the Wilsonian process. Away with the idea of a universal organization whose members would be obliged to maintain the peace through general collective security. He would recognize four regional blocs: the Atlantic community, which would include the United States, the nations of the Western Hemisphere, the nations of Europe west of Germany and south to include Greece. This community would police itself. The second community would be the Russian orbit: Poland, Czechoslovakia, and the nations east of Germany would be included in it. Another community would be the Chinese orbit, with China as the dominant member in the Asiatic system. The fourth region would comprise the Moslem States in the Near East—a region which he admits has not yet emerged and which he could not define.

The practical weakness of Mr. Lippmann’s system is apparent upon analysis. A growing population on the American Pacific Coast considers itself a part of a Pacific community as well as an Atlantic community. The inclusion of Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, and South Africa in the Atlantic community does not hold up under analysis. To the people of the United States, China is one of our closest friends. But by the same strange reasoning, Mr. Lippmann argues that since China’s industries will move from the coast and the Yangtze Valley to the interior of China, the United States can no longer be a protector of China and that from now on China’s greatest problem is to reach adjustment with Russia. This thesis will be rejected by the American people who believe that they have a great opportunity to help China industrialize herself and to help the Chinese establish democratic institutions and a modern educational system.

The problem of the British Commonwealth of Nations is likewise ignored, but the British Commonwealth is not only part of a so-called Atlantic Community, so to speak, j but is Middle Eastern and Asiatic as well. Much of Mr. Lippmann’s case is superficially plausible, which makes it all the harder to meet. He is right when he argues that the Great Powers will insist upon friendly governments in their neighborhood. Just as the American people would look with distaste at an unfriendly anti-American government in Mexico allied with Germany or Japan, so Russia would not tolerate anti-Russian governments in Czechoslovakia or Poland, allied with Germany. Nor would Great Britain, after her experience with robot platforms across the Channel, tolerate a government in Belgium or in Holland allied with Germany. Generally speaking, the nations in the Western Hemisphere, with the exception of the Argentine, are drawing closer to the United States. Already the nations of Western Europe and the Scandinavian States have indicated their purpose to have close ties with Britain in the future. Czechoslovakia has made good terms with Russia; and the dilemma of the Polish government in exile will only be solved by the creation of a government which is not anti-Russian.

To divide Europe into two blocs, those west of Germany in the British-American orbit, and those east of Germany in the Russian orbit, will seem to most people contrary to the development of independent states within an international organization. Czechoslovakia, until her betrayal at Munich, had stronger contacts with the Western world than she had with the Eastern world, and her democratic institutions and habits were those which Mr. Lippmann attributes to the West. All of the nations of Europe should be able to choose their friends within the framework of the world organization.

Rut the fundamental criticism of Mr. Lippmann’s thesis is its lack of moral perception. Professor Shotwell and Mr. Welles foresee a world in which all nations, no matter what their regional responsibilities and their cultural differences, are bound by certain fundamental moral laws and by the desire to develop among all nations better economic and social standards. Most considerations of economics and human welfare are discarded in Mr. Lippmann’s security thesis of his four world communities.

The statesmen gathered in Washington to draft the constitution of the General International Organization, will be faced with a solution of certain problems which these books have raised. One will be the granting of adequate authority to the four Great Powers in the transition period while creating, at the same time, a democratic world organization. There are over three hundred million people, not counting the Germans, between the Russian borders and the English Channel. They will not long be content to have their destinies determined by four Great Powers, not one of which is a Western Continental Power, no matter how benevolent the rule of those powers may be.

On the other hand, because of the conditions of modern warfare, power will be concentrated as never before in the hands of a few. There will not be more than four or five Great Powers who will have the population and resources and industrial development combined enabling them to prepare sufficiently to withstand a blitz from one of the Great Powers for more than a few hours. To the Norwegians, Belgians, and others, military preparedness will have no value except for prestige and for internal poliee purposes, and in some cases, to poliee colonies. These smaller nations, however, will wish some part in the maintenance of their own security. The answer is participation in world security. And this leads me to the conclusion that there must be some system of police force in which the smallest states may share.

Undoubtedly, plans for the General International Organization provide for an Assembly on which all states will be represented. The heart of the problem will be reached in the composition of the Executive Council, and the way in which the vote of this Council is taken. If a Council of eleven members is decided upon, and decisions taken by majority vote, as they should be, how much must this vote be weighted in favor of the Great Powers who would make the greatest contribution to the enforcement of peace? Theoretically, nationals of those states with little military power could cast a majority vote for military action, although all of the four Great Powers would be opposed to such action. It might be well to have decisions of the Council for the enforcement of peace taken by a majority vote, providing that such majority include a majority of the four or five Great Powers occupying permanent seats on the Council.

No matter how the majority vote is weighted in favor of the nations who will make the greatest contribution to the maintenance of security, one principle must be upheld: the large states must not be permitted to be above the law, In other words, no Great Power with a permanent seat on the Council any more than one of the small powers must be permitted to vote when it is a party to a dispute.

Perhaps the basic agreement for the use of military force to prevent aggression would be an agreement upon the part of the nations to earmark a certain proportion of their military establishments such as men, planes, tanks, destroyers, for the service of the international community. These earmarked forces would be contributed immediately upon request of the Executive Council. It is my hope that such forces would be supplemented by an international air force and strategic air bases occupied jointly by the nations with the greatest security interests in a particular area, but occupied in the name of the world organization.

Military and economic action to prevent an incipient aggression from developing into a full fledged war must be quick and overpowering. Some regional obligations may very well be taken. If the nations in the Western Hemisphere can keep the peace among themselves, so much the better. So much the better, also, if the nations in Central Europe can keep the peace through a Central European federation and relieve the world from the burden of Central European quarrels and minority problems which clogged the League of Nations agenda. Rut in no sense must regional organization or responsibility be an excuse for the refusal to take world responsibility. Twice the United States has been drawn into world war by Germany, despite the fact that the spark that fired the first world war was the German-inspired attack upon Serbia, and in the present war, the German attack on Poland. Neither Poland nor Serbia was in the American region or the so-called Atlantic community. The attack of Italy upon Ethiopia cut across all so-called communities and regions, yet if the nations, including the United States, had jointly applied sanctions, Italy might have been stopped and with it a train of aggression.

The world has so shrunk that the distance from (Washington to any other place in the world is less in time than the distance from Washington to New York in the early history of our country. In this kind of a world there is not room for several sets of moralities and rules of international conduct. Above and beyond any natural groupings must be universal law, and a common morality, and a universal organization.


This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

Recommended Reading