The Cold War and Its Origins, 1917-1960 - Vol. 1

By D. F. Fleming | Go to book overview

PREFACE

THIS book is an account of the great continuing conflict of the twentieth century, the struggle which will determine whether our civilization is to disappear in the nuclear flames of a final war of annihilation or find essential unity in one family of organized nations.

The record here attempted was begun in 1947, when it seemed more than probable that we would go on into a third world war within one lifetime. It is the writer's effort to try to forestall what he has never doubted would be the end of both the American dream and Western civilization. It would have been published much sooner if many developments, some of them international, had not intervened. For example, there was no suitable terminal point while the Korean War lasted, and that was a long time.

As a university student in 1914 I was aware that a big war was likely to break out in Europe at any time, but I was as isolationist as my Mid-Western countrymen until the deepening of the struggle convinced me that our neutrality in World War I could not be maintained.

After 1918 I found it difficult to believe that the opportunity to lead a beginning in world organization, against the return of ever more suicidal and destructive wars, was to be lost in the fires of partisan and personal controversy in Washington.

When the incredible happened, and a far worse world war developed, I again did what I could to work for national survival and to gain a second chance for enough world organization to enable humanity to continue and to develop.

It was poignantly evident that such abysmal destructions of human life, values and property could not continue, and that they were the source of the vast expansion of communism in the world. Nothing could be clearer than that.

It is my profound belief that nothing is so revolutionary as these world wars and that there is no rational alternative to relying chiefly on the irresistible force of evolution to modify communism, and all other systems, to bring them into closer harmony with the universal aspirations for a good life which all men share. I have never doubted that we can compete successfully with communism, if we place our main reliance on non-military methods.

However, after World War II our leaders quickly swung all the way over from our isolationist refusal to accept any responsibility in the world and came close to assuming military responsibility for everything everywhere. We heavily and positively over-compensated for our negative failure after 1918.

We do not seem able to learn the lesson of each succeeding world crisis until it is too late. During World War II we repented of our tragic failure to lead the League of Nations and we took our place at the head of a new league.

The lesson of World War I, that we cannot resign from the world, was learned at a sadly late date but once again the mandate of a world war was

-xi-

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