DESPITE its absorption in the war effort, America is deeply concerned about the nature and durability of the peace that will follow the war. There is probably more discussion of peace aims, and of schemes of world political and economic organization which might be expected to prevent future wars, in America than in any other country. We are not yet in the direct line of fire, so far as our own cities are concerned. And in this war, as in the last, America is not animated by hope or expectation of territorial gains. Hence the desire is all the stronger to achieve the frustrated objective of the last war: to win the peace and make the world permanently safe against any new eruption of total war.
Mr. Hoover and Mr. Gibson are exceptionally qualified to discuss with authority the subject of their book: the bases of a lasting peace. Mr. Hoover is our only living ex-President. Mr. Gibson is a veteran career diplomat who was associated with Mr. Hoover in relief work and who has represented the United States at many international conferences.
Starting out from the proposition that seven dynamic forces — ideologies, economic pressures, nationalism, imperialism, militarism, the emotional elements of fear, hatred, and revenge, and the will to peace — have largely shaped the history of the world, the authors trace the influence of these forces from the American and French Revolutions to the present time.
Coming down to the modern events in which both have been active participants, Mr. Hoover and Mr. Gibson discuss the causes of the gradual disintegration of the peace that was established after the First World War. Discussing the reasons for the fading of Woodrow Wilson’s dream of world peace through the League of Nations, they reach the conclusion that the League was at once too rigid and too feeble in its Constitution and procedure. It was too rigid because adequate provision was not made for peaceful revision of treaties. It was too feeble because, when its authority was challenged on such issues as Manchuria and Abyssinia, nothing effective was done.
The authors strike an unusual note in attributing a good deal of responsibility for the collapse of peace in Europe to the refusal of France to make concessions to Bruening’s moderate Government in the disarmament question. Had France granted some of Bruening’s modest requests, the authors believe, the rise to power of Hitler might have been staved off. This is a matter of opinion; but it was certainly a tragedy that what was refused to the reasoned arguments of the German Republic was granted, ten times over, to the bluster and threats of the Third Reich.
In discussing the question of what to do after the end of the present war the authors lay stress on two points: immediate maximum disarmament, while people’s minds are still in the mood to welcome this idea; and encouragement, in the defeated countries, of freely elected representative governments. They are in favor of imposing stern punishment on the individuals who are responsible for the war; but they express the belief that “there can be no lasting peace in Europe with a dismembered Germany.”
The authors discuss at length the many types of schemes for the maintenance of international order and peace. While they limit themselves in somecases to setting forth the pros and cons of the proposition which they are describing, one gathers that they favor the regionalist rather than the universalist pattern of world organization; that they are skeptical of all schemes which require abrogation of national sovereignty; that they favor a revived League of Nations, shorn of coercive functions and operating as an aid to the persuasive processes of diplomacy. Police power, they feel, should be — or, in any event, will be — exercised by the victorious powers.
The book makes an energetic plea for economic freedom, which reflects Mr. Hoover’s well-known opposition to bureaucratic control of national economy. No important element in world society has been overlooked; one finds valuable reflections on trade barriers, on the raw materials question, on migration. Far-reaching in scope, rich in thought and experience, this work might well be recommended to all Americans who, as individuals and in groups, are seeking the answer to the thorny yet imperative question; What will establish and maintain that world peace without which civilization, in an age of total war, seems destined to perish? W. H. C.