The American Diplomatic Game

by Drew Pearson and Constantine Brown
[Doubleday, Doran, $3.00]
THE authors of this book are veteran newspaper correspondents, who have for many years followed the progress of international conferences and the details of domestic foreign policy at close range. It discloses the advantages and handicaps of the reporter when he undertakes to discuss news from the historical point of view — an observation perhaps permitted to me, since I have been a reporter myself for a full generation. The advantages are those which flow from first-hand knowledge of history in the making, the handicaps result from the discomforts of personal contact with statesmen and a consequent lack of perspective in respect of events.
Viewed dispassionately, however, this book seems to me to provide the best clinical analysis of the actual working of American foreign relations in the post-war years. It touches no high level; it is a cruel, factual, detailed report of what happened in disarmament conferences, in the formulation of international contracts like the Kellogg Pact, above all in the always losing effort of the American State Department to play a political rather than a social rôle, despite the hostility of Congress and the unconcern of the Chief Executive.
Particularly interesting is the picture presented of the London Naval Conference. In this narrative the reader sees an American delegation setting out for a European Conference with no clear or even shadowy conception of the actual factors destined to decide the result. Precisely as in the Washington Conference, almost a decade before, France and Great Britain were again at odds and the French were once more resolved to make no agreement possible save as the British were prepared to undertake corresponding responsibilities for French security. In addition, Italy and France were hopelessly deadlocked over the question ot parity. Beyond the western Pacific, too, Japanese purposes were already taking a form which would find expression in Manchuria in no long time.
The American delegation expected to talk limitation and reduction of armaments. It found itself immediately confronted by the fact that to achieve parity with Britain it must consent to a billion-dollar boost in the naval expenditure of the United States, while to bring about a five-power agreement it must also accept a consultative pact with France and an increase in ratio for Japan. American public opinion, voiced by the Senate, was, however, opposed to naval increase, resolved against European involvements, and angry over Japanese demands.
The result was that the unhappy delegation fumbled and faltered between the political realities of the outside world and the domestic necessities of the Hoover Administration. In the end it accepted billion-dollar parity and sought to conceal it, Conceded Japanese increase and tried to water down the truth, and, finally, rejected the consultative pact and tried to pretend that a three-power treaty, subject to the famous ‘escalator clause,’ constituted not only a victory for peace but also a triumph for the Administration.
Actually the London Treaty was a fraud, just as the Chinese details of the Washington Treaty were a sham. The former was abolished by the Japanese denunciation of last December and the latter were demolished by the Japanese action in Manchuria in 1931, which was equally fatal to the pretentious emptiness of the Kellogg Pact. No one interested in the story of American foreign policy — or absence of policy — in the past decade can afford to ignore this book, which, despite its incidental misstatements and frequent examples of doubtful taste, has a basic authenticity of portrayal.