"LET'S RETURN TO DIPLOMACY"
An Address by PERCY JAMES PHILIP
Ottawa Correspondent, The New York Times
Thursday, November 29th, 1951
CHAIRMAN: The President, Mr. D. H. Gibson.
MR. GIBSON: Members and Guests of The Empire Club of Canada: Mr. Percy James Philip our distinguished Guest and Speaker is with us today for the 11th time in 11 successive years. A record we earnestly trust will remain unbroken for as long a time as he is available.
I would like to assume because of the very valuable contribution Mr. Philip has rendered in his treasured messages to this Empire Club from this day on we name him not only our distinguished guest but also our friend.
For 34 years Mr. Philip has rendered outstanding service in his association with that great institute "The New York Times".
We offer to him and all his associates our congratulations for the sustaining influence and power of this noble newspaper recently celebrating its 100th Anniversary. Mr. Philip is a Scotchman, a product of The George Watson College, Edinburgh and later Oxford University. For 21 years he dwelt in France and for 11 years he has represented his great Newspaper at Ottawa. I want to make one reference to Mr. Philip's message to us a year ago when he said among many impressive statements:
"Envious people have sought to give our Empire a bad name, but it was the greatest social, political structure ever built by man." An inspiring conviction we do well to hold fast with great determination. It is a special pleasure to present Mr. Philip who will address us on "Let's Return to Diplomacy".
MR. PHILIP: It is a very great pleasure to me to come and speak to the Empire Club each year, for many reasons, but especially because it always restores my confidence in myself. I know that you would not ask me back again if you did not approve of what I said, and I know that you would not approve of what I said unless it made sense.
I never fail to read all the speeches in the bound volume which you publish each year and the standard is so high that I feel flattered to find my own contribution included, and, gentlemen, right here let me say that nothing makes a man, or a woman, or a nation feel and behave better than a little flattery, or shall we rather call it appreciation, expressed in word or deed by someone they respect. Trouble always begins with rudeness and insults.
It is with that remark as preface that I propose to go straight to my today's subject-the discarding of the art of diplomacy and the necessity we are under to return to it if we want to prevent the hysterical way we are quarreling publicly about peace turning into a shooting war.
As some of you will remember I have never at any time been an enthusiastic believer in the United Nations Organisation as offering a good solution of the problem of how nations can be brought to live together amicably and in mutual respect, each keeping its own individual culture and character.
At the same time I have hitherto abstained from being critical. A newspaper reporter learns early in life not to allow himself to be easily impressed by pontifical people with big sounding ideas, and he also learns not to be too precipitate in criticism and above all not to be himself pontifical. But the situation is becoming so dangerous that I think the time has come to speak frankly.
To some it may seem almost treasonable to suggest that the United Nations has already proved wrong in method however laudable it may be in intention. But even the most stalwart defender of the world parliament now meeting in Paris can scarcely approve the way in which differences and conflicts are being acerbated by intemperate language.
Of course those who either out of conviction or lack of courage to face the truth, feel they must justify the U.N. conception and practise may find it quite sufficient and quite satisfactory to put all the blame on the Russian Government. That is the easy way out.
But surely it would have been a lot wiser to have considered at the outset how the Russians might be expected to behave before we started building this enormous costly and windy organisation and let them in on the ground floor.
I find that with remarkable sapience I suggested to you in January 1946 that it might be a mistake to think that all our dear allies would prove to be as easy going, as peace loving and as reasonable as ourselves. I even had the audacity to say that the Empire of satellite and subject states that Russia was building in Eastern Europe and Asia was not in the least like the Commonwealth collection' of independent self-governing peoples and that it might not be wise to admit into our peace organisation those governments which did not permit free elections, did not even know about habeas corpus and regarded the liberty of religious worship, of assembly and of the press as extremely dangerous.
Nobody wanted at the time to listen to any such forebodings. We were all in a hurry to start a new heaven on earth, and were still confident that Mr. Stalin and his associates were on our side. It was in vain that Mr. Churchill on his return from the Yalta conference warned the House of Commons: "We have entered a world of imponderables and at every stage self-questioning arises" Few were in a mood for self-questioning. The ballyhoo movement had begun which has saddled us for better. or worse with the UNO its discordant disunited members, its immense secretariat, its huge building, its division of the nations into two and possibly three bitterly hostile camps and its wrong methods. It is to some of these wrong methods that I wish to draw your attention today, not in critical destructive way but in the hope that perhaps, if they are frankly discussed they may eventually be mended. And because I think that if one indulges in criticism it is only fair that one should be ready to put forward an alternative I shall submit to you that if we are to avoid getting into an even worse mess it is time to return to the diplomatic method of conversing between nations and let the UNO founder as the League of Nations did when its worth had been destroyed by those who used it for their own national interests and sought to make it do what it was not capable of doing.
Now it is usual among U.N. defenders to denounce the veto power of any member of the Security Council as the worst fault of the organisation as it tends to destroy its authority. What has certainly been demonstrated is that the Russian government will take advantage of that veto clause at every opportunity when it suits its interests and will disregard it when it works contrary to these interests.
But although I know that I am treading on delicate ground I should like to submit to you that when the invasion of South Korea by the Communist trained forces of North Korea began in June last year it might have been better if Russia had been present and had taken part in the discussion of what should be done.
As I have said I know that I am on delicate ground for all kinds of emotions have been aroused by the Korean war and have confused our thinking. Canadian soldiers, sailors and airmen are fighting there with old courage and skill. You are justly proud of them. I confess that I got a special thrill the other day when I read of the good performance of the KOSBs a regiment to which I am specially attached. The Americans, the French, the Australians, the Turks and all the other peoples who have sent contingents to the UN forces have reason to be proud of their own men's share. More than that it has given us all a bitter hope that we will be able to form a united force drawn from all the nations of good will to keep peace and impose it on an aggressor.
And yet I feel that most of us now think that the war in Korea should and could have been avoided, and that it would have been better in those June days last year to put all the pressure possible on Moscow and Pekin to make their support of the North Koreans difficult if not impossible than to rush into such a complicated struggle. We might have failed. It is indeed probable that we would for neither the Russian nor the Chinese Communist governments are easy to persuade or to bring to agreement. But I do not think that our position would have been worse than it is now. We have been fighting for eighteen months-fighting hard and have reached no conclusion. Our efforts conducted on the field by generals to reach some kind of armistice have put us at times in a position of what the oriental would describe as lost face. It is a risky position and it could easily become disastrous if those who were so hot for war last year should now become cold and agree to terms which might be interpreted all over Asia as an admission of failure.
I shall not stress the point. I know you appreciate how grave and how delicate the position is and how dangerous the practise can be of leaving it to generals on the field to try to find a way out. There never was a better instance of the need for diplomats working secretly a long way distant. The veto power which may prevent a small war starting is, I contend, much less of an evil than the lack of ability to end a war once started.
There is where we come to what I consider the greatest weakness of UNO. It has so far been more inclined to be swept by emotion than controlled by wise judgment.
One reason is of course that it was born amid emotion and fulsome flattery as "mankinds last chance" and "the only hope for civilisation" at a moment when everybody was shocked and horrified by the first uses of the atom bomb. It consequently quickly developed what may fairly be called a "sacred cow" complex which its bishops and priests are careful to nourish so that a great many people have come to believe that there is no other way that theirs of maintaining international peace and security.
And yet-the world got along remarkably well for a good many centuries before the UNO was invented. We had wars of course, but usually we managed to limit them to some corner of the world while the other nations remained neutral and exercised a kind of control over both belligerents. Take for example the Crimean war in which Russia, Turkey, Britain, France, and even if I remember right, some Italian troops were engaged. Yet the war never spread far beyond the actual battle-field. The rest of the world was able to go on its way in relative quiet and there was no threat of everybody getting involved.
And take another case. What a mess we would all have been in if a Security Council had tried at the time to decide who blew up the Maine and who was the aggressor in the Spanish-American war, and had called on everybody else to join in. It was really far more in the interests of peace and humanity that neutral diplomats in every capital could quietly on instructions from their Governments set about the delicate work of getting the belligerents to calm down and so securing a settlement before too great damage was done.
Of course we had the definite advantage in these days of last century that we had not all become steamed up with an assumption of moral superiority. We knew we were all sinners and although Mr. Gladstone inclined a little along the way of the evangelist we did not all strike attitudes of righteous indignation in the way our governments are now all inclined to do in their efforts to assure us that only they are above reproach.
In the cases like the Franco-Prussian, the Spanish-American and the Russo-Japanese wars conversations at what is now called the diplomatic level were immensely helpful in bringing hostilities to an end and enabling peace to be made.
I used to listen with wonder and misgiving to some of my American colleagues at the end of the first war with Germany denouncing the "striped pants" diplomats and pinning their faith for the future on round table get together conferences of the representatives of the people. It sounded wonderful. I hoped it was true. But there was never more naive nonsense proponded with such fury of sound.
During the years that followed I watched all the peace treaties being made and attended many sessions of the League of Nations. At all of them I found the principal weakness was that instead of sending carefully briefed delegates and skilled diplomats it became the habit for Prime Ministers, Foreign Ministers and Defense Ministers to attend and try to do everything themselves.
You know the result. All, or nearly all of them went on record and took positions which they could not possibly maintain and most of them were all the time looking nervously over their shoulders to see if public opinion at home was behind them.
The case has been infinitely worse in the United Nations. Instead of staying at home and instructing their striped pants ambassadors and envoys, picked men and not the chance jetsom of popular election, to move a pawn here or withdraw a knight there, all in the most polite and unobstrusive manner, our foremost Ministers have come to think that they must attend every conference, make great public proposals from which there can be no retreat, abuse all those who differ from them and create an emotional world as highly explosive as any atom bomb.
Their example has been quickly followed by others so that we are being treated to the spectacle of foreign ministers of nations incapable of self defence, whose peoples are politically immature and in many cases illiterate using the United Nations as a platform from which they can appeal to the emotions of their followers in the name of principles which they themselves would be the last to put into practise.
I am frankly afraid of this emotionalism which is sweeping the world and flames so brightly at each U.N. assembly, of the moral evangelical indignation of the west, of the unstable excited ambitions of the east, of the greed, envy and hate which lie behind so many demands for change. There is fear everywhere, of the atom bomb, of the concentration camp, of the assassin who creeps through the Malay jungle, of the Moslem fanatic, and in Europe, with some justice of being again made a battle field which some consider worse than being occupied by an enemy.
I do not claim that a return to the method of international conversations through ambassadors instead of publicly by politicians in open meeting and over the air waves would be immediately or even ultimately successful in preventing the present emotional ferment from bursting into war. But it is obvious that we must try some way of reducing the fever which is threatening to destroy that frail flower of the spirit and the mind of man that we call civilisation. And I would suggest that the first step to be taken is to stop this absurdity of announcing great peace plans in dramatic speeches and then quarreling bitterly because the other fellow does not immediately accept.
How can he? If Mr. Acheson was to seem to accept anything Mr. Vichinsky proposed he would be immediately denounced by a posse of American Senators as a Red fellow traveller. If Mr. Vichinsky was to seem to agree with Mr. Acheson he had better not return to the Kremlin.
They would both do better to call a truce to speeches and peace proposals and concentrate on studying through their diplomatic missions how rival political ideologies and national governments have in the past managed to live together in relative peace and take them for an example. It seems to me that men who managed to split the atom should have skill enough to reach an agreement not to destroy each other.
Gentlemen my time is up. I would like however to add one word. I have said nothing about the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the setting up in Europe of an integrated force at present under the command of General Eisenhower to which Canada has sent a fine contribution. That is another story and deserves separate treatment. To my mind the necessity for NATO lay in the failure of UNO. And fortunately it has so far avoided most of the mistakes and weaknesses of the United Nations. Its membership is restricted and I for one hope that it will remain restricted to those people who understand what we mean when we talk about liberty, responsible government, habeas corpus and free elections. If we start taking in others because of what the military mind calls strategic necessity then our cause will be compromised and our real strength diminished.
Only free men can defend freedom and only nations which are and feel themselves to be independent and equal within their cooperative organisation will stand together to the end and win if ever we have to face the barbarian challengers of our Christian civilisation.
Another thing; we must always be moderate in our language. If our diplomats are to be successful in their dealings they need behind them such a force as is being created, but there must be no boasting, no threatening above all no provocation. This composite army which is being formed in Europe may be very fine and have the atom bomb behind it, but when I think of what it may have to meet I remember Fitzroy Maclean's description in Eastern Approaches of the Red army advancing on Belgrade: "They were certainly not smart" he wrote. "Their uniforms were torn and stained. Their boots as often as not were completely worn out. They were an extraordinary medley of racial types from the flaxen hair and blue eyes of the Norseman to the high cheek bones and yellow complexions of the Mongol. But they were experienced self-reliant seasoned troops. Ragged and unkempt though they might be their weapons were clean and bright. Every truck we saw contained one of two things: petrol or ammunition. Of rations, blankets, spare boots or clothing there was no trace. Almost every man we saw was a fighting soldier. What they carried with them were materials of war in the narrowest sense. We were witnessing a return to the administration methods of Attila and Genghis Khan. There lay one reason for the amazing speed of the Red Army's advance across Europe.
"Thinking it over and recalling the numbers of dentists chairs and filing cabinets which were landed in Normandy at an early stage of the Allied invasion, I wonder whether we ourselves could not profit by the Russian example."
In Malay we have seen how a few thousand guerilla bandits can immobilise a large military force immensely better equipped. In Korea the superiority of our arms and of our organisation have not yet beaten the enemy. Let us beware of entering a war with those people who do not fight according to our rules just as they do not share our political social and moral conceptions.
There never was a time when it was more necessary to speak softly and carry a big stick. In that NATO army which is being built in Europe we can have a stout stick if we build it for fighting efficiency and not for size and do not overburden it with unessential and expensive equipment. It must not be too heavy for our people to carry.
For that reason it is essential that it should be kept under civilian control. It is hundreds of years since the English people settled it that soldiers were under the control of and could not dictate to our civilian governments and parliaments. This is no time to depart from that good rule. We are facing the challenge of a totalitarian system but that is no reason for going totalitarian ourselves. If we are to come through this test of strength of the free democratic system we must hold fast to old well-tried methods and the experience of our ancestors who built our freedoms.
I said when I began that if I criticised I would also try to suggest a better way of doing things than we have seen recently. That better way is not difficult to find. It begins with the old adage that every man should stick to his job. It--is for our Ministers to establish and carry through policies which have been sifted and approved by their parliaments representing the people. It is not their job to make bellicose speeches, hurling accusations with a loud voice into the empty air and, with a great show of moral and intellectual superiority taking positions which have no prospect of fulfillment and from which once announced they cannot retreat.
It is for our diplomats to carry out the instructions of their governments seeking patiently, quietly, intelligently and by private negotiation and without passion that peace by agreement or, if not by agreement at least by mutual assent, which all peoples, Russians and Chinese as well as ourselves desire.
It is for soldiers, even great generals, to carry out the orders of their governments and not to initiate policies or engage us in adventure.
If we keep these rules we can win this cold war. If we do not keep them we will go fumbling forward into a hot war, so hot that none of us will be able to hold it, none will escape burning and we shall all be fortunate if we can avoid perishing in the flames.
THANKS OF THE MEETING were expressed by Mr. J. Morgan.