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Books: Idealist and Realist

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How NEW WILL THE BETTER WORLD BE? —Carl L. Becker—Knopf ($2.50).

As between idealists and realists, the arguments on U.S. foreign policy (which has recently been the subject of a critical drumfire) weave back & forth, sometimes creating horrendous dissonances, sometimes blending with skilled counterpoint. The idealistic “blueprint” mind is uppermost in Joseph M. Jones’s A Modern Foreign Policy for the United States, which consists of three articles originally written for FORTUNE. Mellow realism takes control in Carl L. Becker’s How New Will the Better World Be?

But Mr. Jones is realist enough to know that moral desire is not enough to constitute a program, and Professor Becker does not kick the fellow who is ready with the blueprint out his Cornell study window. Different in temper and approach, Becker and Jones can nevertheless be reconciled and harmonized. They want the same thing: a four-power agreement among the Russians, the Chinese, the Americans and the British. They want the agreement to be moral in content. Whether they reckon with the possibility that moral unity may prove to be a pious dream in a world that includes both communists and free enterprisers is something else again. Even the most intransigent of realists flinch at the prospect of continued war between these two groups.

Deadwood in a Flaming World. Mr. Jones once worked for the U.S. State Department, and his memory of dull, frustrated days spent in its gloomy halls colors every page of his book. Mr. Jones doubts that we have a foreign policy, doubts that the machinery and personnel of the State Department is capable of setting one up. Furthermore, he doubts that Mr. Hull’s minions have any way of getting their information before the people of the U.S. or their representatives. The representatives, in their turn, have no practical means of persuading the State Department to adopt their ideas on what foreign policy should be. The general result of all this is negation and sterility. With a world in flames, nothing vital is projected by the State Department for discussion by the Senate and House committees on foreign affairs.

Mr. Jones’s own prescription for a foreign policy begins with the necessity for a four-power alliance. But our adherence to any such alliance must rest on prior commitments on the part of Britain, Russia and China to help us protect and extend the principle of freedom throughout the world. There must be security from aggression, but there must also be security for such things as freedom of speech, assembly, and the press. Moreover, there must be a dedication of the Big Four to the promotion of a steadily expanding world economic system, a constant rise in the standards of living of everybody. Democracy can’t exist in a contracting economy, says Mr. Jones.

Can We Prevent a Stalemate? How to reanimate an executive department that refuses to “recognize and enter into diplomatic relations with the American people” is the burden of Mr. Jones’s final chapter. Mr. Jones would create a foreign-relations council consisting of the Secretary of State, the Under Secretary of State, and delegates from the Senate and House committees on foreign relations. State Department information would be made available to the council. The constant consultation between legislative and executive branches of the Government on the elements and practice of foreign policy might do much to prevent any tragic stalemate on the subject of treaties. Responsibility for the conduct of our foreign affairs would be restored to the people, yet the people’s representatives would be provided with inside information and leadership from a group that is paid to think constantly about the role of the U.S. in world affairs.

Brave Old World. Carl Becker (professor emeritus of history at Cornell) goes along with Joseph Jones insofar as his long-term hopes are concerned. But he cautions his readers to remember that things move slowly, that the world will not change radically with the defeat of Hitler and Japan. The new world will continue to be “nationalistic, for it is nationalist sentiment that is even now inspiring the British, the Chinese and the Russians. There will be a “balance of power,” for “balance” is the antithesis of the monopoly of power which the Axis hoped to put over on us. Accepting this, concept, Professor Becker goes on to advocate a foreign policy of keeping the balance tipped in favor of Russia, China, the U.S. and Britain.

Professor Becker knows that the problems of international cartels, jangling currency systems, the dangers of economic security v. political independence will remain with us for years to come. We will have “imperialism” of a sort, for small and backward nations need capital that is owned by the big fellows. The status quo ante will be restored in many instances, simply because a war-weary world will follow the lines of least resistance. China, for example, may object to Britain’s presence in Singapore. Yet the fact that China has no navy demands the presence of Western naval power in the Far East.

Professor Becker is mellow, reasonable, and willing to work with anyone within a certain “area of agreement.” He would probably be willing to accept most of Mr. Jones’s proposals for streamlining the State Department and for a beneficent democratic “dynamism” in foreign affairs. But Professor Becker quietly and unobtrusively suggests that an international economic order presupposes an abatement of the social conflict inside nations. No doubt Mr. Jones would go along with Carl Becker on this. But neither author can tell how the trick is to be turned. Neither can they tell how to prevent civil war from becoming world war.

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