Foreign Policy in the Making

by Carl Joachim Friedrich
[Norton, $2.75]
MR. FRIEDRICH’S book was written before the Munich agreement. From now on, that date, September 30, 1938, will mark the great divide for those who study international politics.
This does not diminish the value of Mr. Friedrich’s book. Quite the contrary. In attempting to analyze, realistically, the forces which make the foreign policy of the various nations since the end of the last war, Mr. Friedrich has brought forth a useful appraisal of these forces and his book could serve as a preface to the cataclysmic crisis of September 1938.
The book has the merit of being brief and clear. The author wastes no time in moralizing or arguing the pros and cons. He states his thesis in simple terms: according to him, both the theory of the balance of power and the principle of collective security, such as was embodied in the League, have failed because both of them implied a balancer which has not been found as yet.
What should this balancer be? In trying to answer this question, Mr. Friedrich is not very convincing, He believes that Democracy offers the only chance. ‘Democracy,’ he contends, ‘will march forward toward international organization. The same federative idea which in this country [the United States] has merged sectional conflicts in a national pattern . . . will provide the framework for the slow evolution of a world policy.’ This is at the beginning of his book, but in the last pages of his analysis Mr. Friedrich himself seems to have lost some of his optimism. ‘Yet where there is life there is hope.’ says he, after prophesying that the world is going to be plunged into the dark night of fierce struggles between great empires contending for world supremacy. ‘More particularly is there hope that democracy may win through teaching by example. If the true democracies remain better places in which to live, they will not need any ministries of propaganda to tell the world all about it.’
But these considerations are less valuable than the very good contribution which Mr. Friedrich brings to the complicated question of the interlocking of conflicts which confront the world today. He has seen, and explained clearly, why the democracies have constantly recoiled before the violent methods of the dictators; why the rulers of Great Britain and France have conducted their foreign policy, not as Britishers or Frenchmen considering the national interest alone, but as partisans constantly troubled by the domestic conflicts; he has shown quite conclusively why the ‘high diplomacy’ of the past cannot function in a modern democracy; and why the democracies therefore have found themselves constantly at a disadvantage before the totalitarian states in which both the foreign and the domestic policies were conducted without free discussion by the people.
Mr. Friedrich believes that ‘Democracy has not gone far in developing suitable techniques in the field of foreign affairs. . . . They [the Democracies] are bound to seek for the establishment of a reign of law so that change can be brought about by counting heads rather than breaking them.’ But Mr. Friedrich finds that ‘the first, efforts in this direction [the League and collective security] seem to have resulted in the breakdown of what little law there was left in the relations bet ween nations.'
In other words, Mr. Friedrich puts his finger on the real cause which has enabled the dictatorships to register such an amazing series of successes: the Democracies, in trying to retain what they cherish the most, — the right of free discussion and of disagreement, — have allowed their single-minded opponents to find allies within the Democracies themselves, thus preventing a continuous foreign policy of resistance or of rational compromise.
In the concluding pages of his book the author brings up the question of American participation in the maintenance of world order. He slates (before Munich) that reliance upon empire as the guardian of pax Britannica has revealed itself as illusory. ‘An empire,’ he writes, ‘is not ruled according to the glorious formula of Abraham Lincoln. Hence, it cannot fight for the common people without equivocation.’ And Mr. Friedrich concludes, from this, that ’following the British will never do as a rule for American foreign policy. The American people cannot be asked to rescue the British Empire.'
But, in spite of this apparent profession of isolationist faith, Mr. Friedrich does not seem to believe that any major conflict could be localized. His remedy appears to imply some sort of improvement in the methods by which the Democracies carry their foreign policy. How? He does not. tell us very clearly.
What stands out after reading this interesting book is a hopeless paradox: Democracy, somehow, is the only way to save the world from complete disintegration; but at the same time, according to Mr. Friedrich’s brilliant demonstrations. Democracies have not been organized to deal with foreign affairs, as proved by the fact that all their efforts of the last twenty years have piteously failed.