Postwar Reconstruction

By Brown, Philip Marshall | World Affairs, Summer 2007 | Go to article overview

Postwar Reconstruction

Brown, Philip Marshall, World Affairs

THE saying "In time of peace prepare for war is now to be reversed. Never was it more urgent to prepare for peace, than at the present moment. The political, economic, and social readjustments to be made when this war is over are bound to be revolutionary in character. The United States, while not directly a party to the war, has vital interests at stake. We cannot afford to be ignored in the peace settlement. We must therefore be thinking in terms of the kind of world reorganization we desire to be established.

It is essential first of all to distinguish between war aims and peace aims.

Victory in war is a military concern and the problem of adequate safeguards against the recurrence of war is primarily one for the supreme strategists. It is therefore unwise and unjust to ask Great Britain to define her aims in the midst of this fateful struggle.

They are bound to vary with the fortunes of war. What is possible of attainment is more important than what is desirable. Great Britain may be able only to stop Hitler and fight a stubborn war until he has had enough. Germany's whole military edifice, on the other hand, may collapse, or the time even may come when Great Britain might be able to undertake a formidable offensive, at least from the air and the sea. But all this is speculative and makes the statement of war aims impossible.

In the second place, we must recognize that the peace aims of the United States are necessarily predicated on British victory. If Hitler should eventually control the high sea and dictate to the rest of the world either in an economic or military way, we would not be in a position to do much planning for peace.

Thirdly, as the United States is fully committed to the policy of aiding Great Britain to defeat Hitler, we are compelled to enlarge the scope of our understandings with the whole Empire, both with respect to a war economy and a peace economy. Our mutual interests are daily becoming more intimate and vital. It follows that, if our aid to Great Britain is great, we have the right to claim to be heard in the peace settlement. We may fairly ask Great Britain to discuss with the United States the broad bases of the new world order which we expect to be established by ourselves, and not by Hitler. We may reasonably ask Great Britain to agree with us on certain policies of mutual advantage in time of peace. While it would be unwise and impolitic to talk in terms of an alliance between the two nations, it is necessary to discuss a working agreement, a complete understanding concerning all essential aspects of Anglo-American relations. The sheer logic of events is forcing the English-speaking world into a partnership for world peace.

Fourthly, we must recognize that back of the world war there is a world revolution which is profoundly altering international relations, as well as the internal structure of nations. Stalin's whole foreign policy has been based on the fact that the masses will eventually revolt and seek control. The social system of Great Britain has transformed during the war. There may "always be an England", but it will never be the same England. France has long been facing the possibility of a radical regime. The New Deal in the United States is obviously a manifestation of this social revolution. The democratic control of foreign relations will inevitably transform the whole character of international intercourse.

Many individuals and agencies are at work on this difficult problem of planning for peace. Their findings will be of the utmost value, though specific proposals may seem speculative or impractical. In any event, a general discussion is to be encouraged, especially if the United States should be forced into the war as an active combatant. We must all be "thinking it through" and be ready for unforeseen developments. The task is immense and will require the closest collaboration. A detailed program cannot reasonably be expected but certain guiding principles seem to be emerging on which to base a comprehensive understanding between the United States and all the members of the British Commonwealth of Nations.

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