"POWER AND RESPONSIBILITY"
An Address by ARTHUR HAYS SULZBERGER
President, The New York Times
Joint meeting with The Royal Canadian Institute
Saturday, January 12th, 1952
CHAIRMAN: The President of the Royal Canadian Institute, Mr. John S. Dickson.
CHAIRMAN'S INTRODUCTION: In introducing our speaker to-night, I do so not only as President of the Royal Canadian Institute, but also on behalf of The Empire Club of Canada. These two organizations are holding this meeting jointly-we shall hear from the President of The Empire Club later on.
Our speaker was born in New York City. This huge metropolis has always been the key centre of his life and work. In the First World War he was commissioned Second Lieutenant in the Field Artillery. While he started work in the cotton goods industry, he has been in the newspaper business since 1919.
We in Canada have special economic interest in the newspaper business because of our commanding position as the world's largest producer and exporter of newsprint. Last year, for instance, the United States relied on Canadian mills for roughly 80% of its total newsprint requirements.
As you all know, our speaker is the President and Publisher of The New York Times. That position alone makes him singularly well qualified to deal with his subject "Power and Responsibility." But his interests and achievements extend far beyond the newspaper field, broad as it is. Just to illustrate my point I shall mention a few of the salient facts in his distinguished career.
He is a Trustee of Columbia University, of the Rockefeller Foundation, of the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Governor of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation; Governor-at-large of the American Red Cross. Among his business connections, he is Director of Spruce Falls Power and Paper Company, Limited, whose Head Office is in Toronto, with mills at Kapuskasing, Ontario. His academic attainments include a B.S. degree from Columbia University, LL.D. from Dartmouth and two other colleges, D. Litt. from Brown University and two other institutions of learning, an L.C.D. degree from Bishop's University here in Canada, and Doctor of Public Service from the University of Denver.
Briefly, his exceptional qualities of mind and heart are widely recognized in the foremost journalistic, business, academic, cultural and philanthropic circles.
Ladies and Gentlemen, it gives me much pride and pleasure to present--an outstanding citizen of the United States, President and Publisher of The New York Times--Arthur Hays Sulzberger.
MR. SULZBERGER: Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen: My first duty is to thank you for the courtesy of your invitation and for your willingness to bring together your two associations to meet my convenience. I will try, in my response, to remember Lord Dunedin's advice to your Prime Minister many years ago. They were seated together at the head table during a dreary succession of after-dinner speeches. Finally, as Mr. St. Laurent told us last year when he was in New York--His Lordship turned to him and said: "Young man, when you get to be my age"--he was then over eighty--"you will realize that it's unwise for anyone to attempt to make a speech unless he really has something to say. And after he has said it, he should sit down."
I sincerely hope my one speech will meet the test. I am quite certain that two from me would have failed and I thank you for protecting me and yourselves.
This is the time of the year when most of us engage in self-examination. For eleven months and maybe about twenty days each year, we concentrate upon the shortcomings of others, but for a few days at the turn of the New Year we look at our own. It is a good habit.
The Scotch in Ontario may brood a little too darkly on sins material and immaterial, especially after the merriment of Hogmanay, but the habit of introspection is beneficial. It gives us a little perspective and a sense of a new beginning. The only trouble with it is that it doesn't last very long and it doesn't extend very far into the wider relations of states and nations.
It would be rather disarming, for example-and might even be good politics--if the President of the United States had managed to say somewhere in his State of the Union message that all our tribulations were not made in Russia, that maybe at least a few of them had been caused by our own miscalculations, and even one or two of them by our own foolishness.
You may have heard of the two workmen who, when the noon whistle blew, sat down to eat their lunch. One undid his package, opened up a sandwich, saw it was peanut butter and promptly tossed it aside. The next sandwich proved to be meat and he ate that with relish. The third was peanut butter again and he threw it over his shoulder. As he was biting into his next meat sandwich, his friend said, "Sam, how long have you been married?" "Fifteen years," was the reply. "Well," said the friend, "I certainly would think that in fifteen years your wife would have discovered that you don't like peanut butter." "You leave my wife out of this," replied Sam. "I made those sandwiches myself!"
Mr. Pearson, whom I have heard described as the most relaxed diplomat in the world, might make such an honest confession, but as a general rule, nations concentrate on spotting the defects in other nations. The United States can tell you all about what's wrong with the British, to say nothing of the Russians. This audience, which knows us well, can certainly define what's wrong with the United States. Every American over fourteen knows that the British burned the White House in 1812, but few know that the Americans burned the public buildings of a city called York, now Toronto, two years earlier. All nations are more tolerant of their own mistakes and weaknesses than of the mistakes and weaknesses of others. And while this cross-fire of criticism is useful and even necessary, what it accomplishes is limited. And I must say, after the endless noisy repetitive propaganda of the last five years, slightly boring.
As you realize (or as has been said), I am not a stranger here. Not only am I a director of one of your large paper mills, and as such come here frequently, but twenty-five years ago I canoed north to where our power site is now located and then continued on to Moose Factory. We, with our partners, have built a town housing some five thousand persons and I am happy to note that it was selected by those who arranged the recent tour of Princess Elizabeth and her husband, as one of the overnight stopping places for the royal party. They slept in a model hotel, the site of which was but emerging from the forest wilderness twenty-five years ago.
I suggest, therefore, that tonight we look at ourselves, by which I mean Canada and the United States, and ask a few simple questions: How we are doing, each country in its own way? What more can we do to promote the objectives and ideals we share? How can we improve the conduct of our international affairs in the year 1952?
A few months ago the United States Secretary of State, Mr. Acheson, used a striking simile which sums up my own feelings about how we are doing.
"The times in which we live," he said, "must be painted in the somber colors of Rembrandt. The background is dark, the shadows deep. Outlines are obscure. The central point, however, glows with light, and though it often brings out the glint of steel, it touches colors of unimaginable beauty.
"For us, that central point is the growing unity of free men the world over. This is our shaft of light, our hope and our promise."
Mr. Chairman, a newspaper publisher, perhaps even more than others, must constantly be looking for the shaft of light. News is so often a report of conflict, an account of problems, a thing of the day and even of the minute, that sometimes I think we make the background darker and the shadows deeper than they actually are. Certainly the lines are obscure-as obscure to me as they must be to many of you-but the shaft of light is there.
Eleven years ago even the English-speaking world were divided in the midst of a mortal conflict. We were just beginning our Lend-Lease debate in Congress in January, 1941, and while I have always considered this act to have been our declaration of war, the fact remains that your men were already in the Spitfires over Britain and ours were not. Today the situation is so different that we have scarcely comprehended what has happened. There has been a revolution, not only in our policy, but what is more important, in our thinking about the responsibilities of power.
Eleven years ago, the primary objective of Winston Churchill's diplomatic policy was to break our isolation. Now we are told he is trying to break, or at least lessen, our domination over the rest of the coalition. In 1941 he was trying to goad us into action; now he may be trying to restrain us.
This is not a new idea with Mr. Churchill. In 1943 I tried to tell him that the United States would not weaken in its purpose if Franklin Roosevelt were not renominated and re-elected the following year. I suggested that Wendell Willkie would pursue a similar course and possibly do a better job. Mr. Churchill was having nothing of Mr. Willkie. He recalled something the latter had- said about the Empire. So he struck his fist on the Cabinet table (we were alone together at Downing Street) and said, "The United States of America established its independence from Great Britain in 1776, but," he said striking the table again, "damn it, that independence works both ways."
It is easy to understand some concern over our growing power. But those who really understand it have no difficulty in appreciating the great accomplishments of the free world in the last five years. It was comparatively easy for the United States and Canada to get along together a generation ago. Our points of contact and therefore of conflict were limited. But the pressures are far greater today. I am not referring to what I believe was a mistaken policy of this Government in permitting some months ago a drastic increase in the price of newsprint. I fear the consequences of that are still to be reflected here.
I am speaking rather of the range of our common interests, which are now world wide. What Ottawa and Washington used to think about Turkey or Iran was not very important because we really didn't think much about either, but now what we think about them is extremely important-to ourselves and to many other peoples.
The statesmen still say that we should not interfere in the internal affairs of other nations and yet it is not possible any longer not to interfere, even when we do not mean to do so. If in the United States we try to maintain an economy which retains large quantities of both guns and butter at the same time; if we stockpile steel and wheat; if we place orders north of the St. Lawrence (or don't place them); if we negotiate with the Germans or propose a disarmament plan, or get into a domestic political row over Chiang Kai-shek--all of which we have a perfect right to do-all these things nevertheless reverberate around the world and limit the freedom of action of other peoples and other governments.
And constantly we must guard against letting any Tweedledum or Tweedledee talk us into accepting seriously the thought that any small nation is only our dream, just as they tried to convince Alice that she was but a figment of the Red King's mind. "If that there King was to wake," said Tweedledum, "you'd go out bang! just like a candle!"
But the currents move in upon America as well as out from America, perhaps more than is realized. We are not unaffected, for example, by the domestic political storms in France and Germany, or the tax-collecting system in Italy, or the political ambitions of a Bevan or a Schumacher. For if the Germans do not help defend the West, American and Canadian troops must cross the seas to do the job, and I venture to believe that the troops--if not the statesmen--regard this as an interference at least in their own domestic affairs.
To create a coalition in this atmosphere-where every major act of policy in every major country affects the lives and policies of all other countries-is therefore a prodigious task, and the surprising thing is not that we have so many difficulties but that we have so few. Some of you may remember the soldier in "South Pacific" who asks himself in a moment of pathetic homesickness: What am I doing here? G. L's are asking this question--and I'm sure your boys are too-in Korea and Germany, and in many other corners of the world, and yet despite all the doubts, and the longings for quiet and peace, great progress is being made.
Any coalition has its troubles, as every married man knows. Free nations with different histories, economies and a vast amount of stubborn pride will never achieve complete agreement, even when they desire the same objectives. Nevertheless, look at some of the things that are being done. The United States, finally aware of the danger of tyranny anywhere in the world, now has treaty commitments to help defend not only the whole Atlantic Community, but strategic areas of Asia Minor and the Pacific, from Turkey all the way to Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines and Japan. Canada is involved in many of these political commitments. Between 1939 and 1945 you produced weapons and war equipment valued at thirteen billion dollars, 70 per cent of which you shipped to your allies. The same process is going on today in Canada's much larger and growing industry.
It is a shock now to realize that it was not until after France was overrun in 1940 that the United States and Canada began planning a joint defense. But today, the defense of North America is being planned as a single unit. Your weapons and ours are being standardized. Civil defense along the great boundary moves ahead as if no boundary existed. A screen of radar stations, backed by a network of communications and squadrons of Canadian and American fighters are being erected by the armed services of the two countries. You are equipping whole divisions in Belgium and Holland with your weapons, and we are replacing those weapons with ours so that the pace of the standardization program can be increased. Officers from all over the Atlantic Community are training in the United States, and as in the last war, you are training airmen from Belgium, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway and the United Kingdom.
Speakers are not supposed to waste time on platitudes, but the capacity of this generation for ignoring the obvious and concentrating on the negative and the obscure is immense. Besides, as your able Ambassador in Washington, Hume Wrong, said the other day, a platitude is but a "frozen truth" which must be repeated from time to time.
Now, Mr. Chairman, it was not self-praise or national indulgence that I wanted to encourage, but self-examination, and self-criticism. It is my conviction that the Soviet tyranny is the greatest menace of our time and for the past few years it has been absolutely imperative that the nature of this tyranny be made clear throughout the world. This will continue to be necessary so long as the tyranny remains a menace to the ideas and ideals by which we live, but this is a limited objective. It is limited in two ways. First, our constant criticism of the Russians obviously does not persuade them, and second, if we concentrate on criticising them, there is a real danger that we will not pay enough attention to criticising ourselves.
After all, if we agree on our own shortcomings, we can do something about those shortcomings. Constant bellowing at the Russians, however, does very little good. As the Scotch say, you might as well "save your breath to cool your porridge." What then of ourselves?
Before in 1937 or '38, I conducted a one-man poll throughout eight of our principal cities, meeting with groups of twenty-five or fifty of the so-called leaders of each community, and sometimes I met with more than one group in each city. The question in every place was: "If war comes involving Britain and France, can the United States stay out?" Despite the vocal isolationism of that time, I found only one man out of the comparatively large total who thought that we could.
A few years later--in 1946--I toured the German states of our Occupation Zone and asked each German in office-and I met most of them-"What could Hans Schmitt, the John Doe of our society, what could he have done to have prevented Hitler from doing the terrible things that he did?" I found only one who agreed with me that if in 1933 when Hitler first took action against the German press there had been an uprising of German democrats to protect the freedom of the press, then possibly he might have been kept from power. Once a free press had perished, however, the last bond which the democrats possessed disappeared and the other freedoms quickly vanished.
I find this a very useful method of judging and creating opinion, and I've carried on the habit ever since. Now the question that is in my mind-and I have asked it frequently-is how we will react to the constant provocations of the Russians when the military goals now before the North Atlantic nations have been achieved? What will be our reaction a few years from now if taxes are still high, Texas is half-full of aircraft, the Communists are still fighting proxy wars here and there around the world, and Mr. Vishinsky still laughs all night at our disarmament proposals?
Every year that goes by for the next few years will raise this question more insistently. It is more relevant in 1953 and '54 and '55 than in 1952.
The question in the first and second world wars was: Will the United States mobilize its power in time? Now that we have demonstrated our willingness and ability to mobilize our power, the question is whether our moral strength will keep pace with the growth of our physical strength, whether we will have the patience and the sense of justice to use that strength prudently to maintain peace in the world?
It seems to me that your own Government has only recently provided us with an example of what I have in mind. I refer to its action in freeing the Canadian dollar from its wartime and postwar restrictions.
Currency manipulation and currency controls are, in the last analysis, weapons of economic warfare. Fortunately, those who invoke them are usually convinced that in their particular cases they are purely defensive weapons. But they are still instruments of war. One of the most costly lessons learned in the years between World War I and World War II was that no nation of any commercial important could resort to the use of these instruments without in some way interfering with the economic life of some other nation, or nations.
It was with this fundamental lesson in mind that we devised and set up the Bretton Woods program. As I understand it, stated in simple terms, the philosophy underlying the Monetary Fund is, that in so far as possible, currency manipulations and controls should be eliminated, along with their causes. Meanwhile, when a country is considering a serious modification of its exchange policy, such a step should be taken only after full consultation with representatives of the other nations.
In voluntarily relinquishing the last of the controls introduced during World War II, Canada, as we in the United States saw it, was not only giving proof of its fiscal integrity but of its sense of responsibility. As we saw it, your country, had it wished to do so, could have retained its exchange controls indefinitely and perhaps exploited them to its advantage. Certainly no other nation was in a moral position to question such a course, much less make an issue of it. Yet you elected voluntarily to relinquish these restrictions--these weapons of economic warfare. And you relinquished them, not as a matter of expediency or calculated advantage, but in the innate and instinctive conviction that this was the way an honorable and responsible nation was expected to act in such circumstances.
This question of moral responsibility is a great challenge for any nation and especially for a young nation that has learned the habit of direct action on the frontier of this continent. It is not easy for a sprinter to learn how to run a marathon, or for a poker-player to switch to chess. We of America like to meet great emergencies with great spurts of energy and then relax. If I may continue to mix my metaphors, the American is psychologically a poker-player, who prefers to match bids and bluffs with an opponent, with the winner sweeping in the whole. pot and ending the game. But the strategy of world affairs today is much closer to the strategy of chess, a game at which the Russian is pretty good. The stakes are high, false moves are dangerous, but the pace is slow. Many moves must be planned at the same time and worked out with patience and foresight, and this requires a habit of mind which our people do not prefer.
Look at the language of our diplomacy in the last few years. We speak of "total war," of "unconditional surrender," of "total victory," of "preventive war." But do these things really mean what they are popularly supposed to mean, We have never really known "total war" on this continent. "Unconditional surrender" proved to be a costly delusion. For all our military triumphs between 1942 and 1945, nothing was less "total"--viewed from 1952--than the victory over the Axis.
I am reminded of the fictitious finance minister of the new state of Israel who, finding it impossible to balance his budget, suggested to his President that they make war on the U.S. "Are you crazy?" asked Dr. Weizmann. "No," said the minister, "of course we'll be beaten, but look what America did for Germany and Japan once she had beaten them." "I still think you're wrong," said the President, "supposing we were to win!"
And as for "preventive war," no two words in the English language contain such a vast and dangerous contradition.
Nevertheless, you must not assume--as I must say frankly a great many of my British friends assumethat America will not stay the course, that we will not match our physical strength with moral strength. This is a big, and was once a lonely continent. It was not conquered in a fit of temper. The men who did the job were not only men of action, but God-fearing patient men as well. We may have to plow around the Russian stump for a great many years, but we have plowed around quite a few stumps in the last three hundred years and I believe we shall learn to do it again, if our people are given a fair and honest lead.
This is not merely a hope. Korea is evidence, not merely of American courage, but of American restraint. The great issue of fighting a limited war was certainly posed in the most dramatic way. No American could have argued for an intensification of that war with more eloquence or experience, or popular backing than General MacArthur, but his view did not then prevail. Certainly there has never been a time in which there have been more provocations to make war and more opportunities to go to war than during the last three or four years. Ransom is not happily paid. Yet always, as with a Berlin airlift or a Greek-Turkish program, or a Marshall Plan, a way has been found to deal with the problem short of major war.
As your own Minister for External Affairs said recently, the spirit of the town meeting remains strong in America--even though at times it may be obscured by Kleig lights, whirring cameras, microphones and sensational headlines. When the issue involves life and death the wide masses of the American people are not impetuous. Despite all the glitter of modern life, they still make moral judgments on political events, and the Government is still responsive to their will. Moreover, the American Constitution, which has disturbed so many British political scientists in the past because it placed restraints upon the executive, is now a brake upon impulsive action. Also, though it may seem to you that Washington often dominates the Atlantic coalition, I am happy to say that our allies, including the Canadians, do not hesitate to speak up whenever they think we are going too far or moving too fast.
Nevertheless, the provocations in the future are likely to be very great, and belief in the inevitability of general war is already very strong. Mr. Chairman, we must not allow this concept of inevitable war to make progress without putting it to the test of fact. If it were true that we were merely standing here waiting like cattle for the slaughter, then one would have to grapple with the concept of making war, no matter how revolting this might be.
But is it true? To every man who asserts-with what knowledge I do not know-that the Russians will strike us tomorrow, or next month or next year, I say: "Why not yesterday?" "Why not last month or last year?" The chances were better then.
This belief in an "inevitable war" and therefore in "preventive war" stems directly, of course, from the outrageous post-war policies of the Soviet Union, but it is also encouraged by the false assumption, widely believed on this continent-that when two coalitions raise large armies they inevitably fight a major war. There is, of course, some truth in this, but not much. The two German wars occurred not because both sides had powerful forces but because one side had an overwhelming force and thought it could win without being badly hurt.
What we are trying to do in the world is not such a very complicated thing, though it is not always understood. We are trying to create a force that will persuade criminals that crime doesn't pay. We are creating a police force, not precisely like an ordinary police force, but similar in many of its functions. We are taxing ourselves to maintain it. We are building police stations, which we call bases, all over the world. We are trying to maintain some kind of order and protect property, so that we can get along with the important things of life, which have to do with the improvement not only of men's bodies but of their minds and souls.
Nobody would think of abandoning the police force in this city just because things remained quiet for a while. Nobody expects the police to put an end to crime. Nobody things it unusual if policemen get killed in the performance of their duty. Nobody proposes that the police force be abandoned if some of the police do get killed. And very few people think the police should go and blow up all the potential criminals, known and unknown, in order to keep them from carrying out their evil plans.
If we could just accept this approach to the new world police forces that are being established, the general understanding and support of our foreign policy would increase. There is never going to be total peace in the world. Trouble is going to keep on breaking out here and there. Soldiers of the world police are going to be killed. Taxes are going to have to be levied for the maintenance of this force, not for a year or five years, but from now on, or at least until such time as the Iron Curtain disappears and the Russian people and their allies are permitted to learn that free peoples are never the enemies of other free peoples.
I believe this concept respecting the police force will gradually be accepted. I think it is gradually being accepted now, and if we work for its acceptance instead of constantly watching and fearing the criminals, I believe we shall succeed-not in wiping out crime but in maintaining some kind of tolerable international society.
This, however, is a long journey, Mr. Chairman, requiring great confidence and faith and balance. If we think of it as a short journey or a hopeless journey we shall certainly be disappointed. If we demand certain victory and surcease from worry at some given point, these things will almost certainly be denied to us as well. For the journey ahead is not unlike the journey which faced Father Jacques Marquette when he set out along the St. Lawrence nearly three centuries ago and descended the Mississippi from Prairie du Chien to the mouth of the Arkansas.
Nobody could assure him where he was going or what he would find at the end of his journey. But he had faith enough and courage enough to leave the comfort of his own home in Canada in order, as he put it, "to explore this river as far as we can" and "to visit the Nations dwelling there in order to open the passage * * *." We are embarked on another kind of journey, but if we bring to it some of the confidence and perseverance of Jacques Marquette, I believe we may yet open up new frontiers of the mind and spirit. This, at least, is my "shaft of light."
THANKS OF THE MEETING were expressed by Mr D. H. Gibson, President of The Empire Club of Canada.