The Atlantic Report on the World Today: Washington
ON THE WORLD TODAY
AT THE San Francisco Conference, whence this ReL port is written, Secretary Stettinius is fighting for his Secretaryship. President Roosevelt’s death left him heir-apparent to the Presidency. It was a bigger translation than appeared on the surface. Mr. Roosevelt, whose administration was too involved and personal for easy cataloguing, was his own Secretary of State.
Between Roosevelt and Stettinius there stood Harry Hopkins, who without a doubt was the Number Two man in the Roosevelt administration. Hopkins appointed Stettinius. And the connection of Secretary Stettinius with Roosevelt passed through Hopkins until Roosevelt’s death. Stettinius, in addition to becoming heir-apparent, became Secretary of State in fact. No wonder that a riot of speculation broke out in the Capital as to the disposition President Truman would make of the Secretaryship.
On assuming office, however, Truman decided to declare a short truce on major changes. The gesture was made partly because he wished to get his bearings, partly out of respect for Roosevelt’s memory. He had a special reason for not wishing to trespass on the Secretaryship: President Roosevelt had appointed Mr. Stettinius chief delegate to the San Francisco Conference. This was his project, and Mr. Truman went out of his way to confirm Stettinius with his confidence when he said there would be no change at the State Department.
A subsidiary reason in Truman’s mind must have been that both of them are as one on the necessity of working closely with the Senate. At Mexico City, Stettinius not only took the advice of his Senatorial advisers: he let them dictate policy. That suits President Truman. Personal government is out in his administration. As he showed when he took his first lunch as President in the Senate, he is going to stress
and to live up to coördination in our system of coördinated powers of government. He likewise believes in having authority go with the office instead of, as in the case of Mr. Hopkins, with the man behind the office.
Stettinius and Vandenberg
The experience in San Francisco bears out the forecast of Stettinius’s tactics. At San Francisco, unlike Mexico City, Senators Vandenberg and Connally are actual delegates. And on the thorniest question to arise on organization — namely, the seating of the Poles — Stettinius deferred to Vandenberg.
Stettinius wanted to refer the problem to a subcommittee. Vandenberg passed him a note suggesting that the problem should be met frontally. The Secretary nodded. The Senator then proceeded to write the speech that Stettinius delivered in the steering committee. It put the American position foursquare behind the Yalta pledge, which would have been violated by the seating of the Lublin Poles.
Secretary Stettinius is well content with this selfeffacing role in matters of private decision. He is inexperienced in both international and public affairs. He appreciates the need of getting the product of this conference smoothly and quickly through the Senate. The Michigan Senator, who is a power in the Senate, will lend authority and weight to the ratification debate.
Some notion as to the future of Stettinius may be gathered from his standing with the public. At San Francisco there are 2100 writers and commentators who are reporting on Mr. Stettinius. Many of these writers are merely dabblers in personalia. They may be depended upon to build up the snowy hair, youthful features, dental smile, and genial manners of Secretary Stettinius. Another group are interested in what a man does and is, rather than in what he looks like. Among these, the Secretary is not favored, and from the beginning he has contracted a bad press.
“That’s not for publication!”
One reason lies in the gag that was imposed on discussions with the press when the American delegation was organized. It took ten days to get some relaxation. Official statements then started to be cleared through the Secretary of State, and the other delegates were allowed to talk personally. Other complaints were frequent. There had been a paucity of official statements at press conferences. Background information was difficult to get, and fights occurred over what was on the record and what was off.
Accordingly a certain amount of spleen at Secretary Stettinius’s expense began to appear in the papers. It did not apply to other chief delegates. The availability of the British was contrasted with the lack of availability of the Americans. Molotov’s straightforwardness and his amazing bid for public support found many admirers.
“What wonderfully organized confusion!”
This conference was badly organized. Delegates should have been housed together, for one thing. In this respect one thinks back to Bretton Woods for a model conference. In San Francisco, delegates are in separate hotels, and because of the overcrowding, the queues of lionizing sightseers, the distances, and the general inconvenience, they feel marooned on so many islands.
Transport difficulties add to delegates’ trials. There is so much rushing back and forth that delegates have difficulty in finding other delegates. San Francisco is a merry-go-round, though let it be said with gratitude that the hospitality of San Franciscans is gracious and wholehearted.
The real trouble was the lack of adequate preparation on procedural matters. Chairmanships and seating and agenda should all have been settled beforehand by some preparatory commission. Nothing was so settled. Molotov arrived with his own policy on organization and threw the others into confusion because they had no alternative. Organization thus became ad hoc. There was an extraordinary addiction to point-scoring in these tussles over organization. For a time one was reminded of a football game. Unfortunately this game had to do with a world organization intended to keep us out of another war.
Our biggest gaffe occurred over Argentina. Let it be said for Molotov that he had prepared the world, let alone this conference, for his claim in behalf of the Ukraine, White Russia, and Lublin Poland. The same cannot be said in connection with Argentina. Argentina, which has been sulking in the shadows, was suddenly pushed into the limelight, not as a nation for which a place was being solicited, but as a trading point.
It was a grievous error in tactics. Until then our position, if not our platitudinous speeches, had given us moral leadership. In the estimation of onlookers, that leadership was in eclipse when this example of ward politics occurred. Fortunately for us, Molotov refused to press his advantage on moral grounds, and proceeded to sit in on the poker game.
No one to consult with
The procedure of device of consultation for the American delegation led to some headaches. There are forty-two consultants at San Francisco, all with one, two, or three associates. This was a change from the Mexico City practice, where the three segments of our population — business, labor, and agriculture — were represented by advisers. The advisers worked with the delegation. They became part of its work and acquired a vested interest in its results.
The innovation worked like a charm at Mexico City. But instead of adopting this device, in San Francisco the State Department threw it out the window and tried to corral small organized groups. They gave the great labor organizations, for example, equal status with such purely private organizations as the Council on Foreign Relations and the National Council of State Garden Clubs. Naturally there was considerable resentment.
To compound the error, the State Department dubbed them all consultants when they were really observers. The hundred or more consultants were not consulted for two weeks. One disgruntled consultant said that after ten days he had been given two scraps of paper telling him of projected meetings and that all he knew about the conference came from his newspaper reading. Something had to be done. So we had the spectacle of an aide in the State Department giving homework to the consultants. It gave the impression that he was trying to keep them at bay.
THE MOOD OF THE CONFERENCE
The mood of the conference has never wavered from its basic hopefulness despite its birthpangs. This is different from Versailles. The people know what they want this time. They want peace and security, and in their bones there is now a realization that peace and security can be gained by coöperation among nations.
A charter for coöperation we will have. But one wishes that the spirit and brains of man were equal to the difficult task of building what Professor Royce called “the great community.”This must wait for a more propitious season. The spirit depends upon the growth of friendship between whole peoples. But friendship, as President Wilson put it, requires machinery, and that can be created only as we develop better statesmanship than has appeared at San Francisco.