Latin America


UNDER the leadership of the United States delegation to the San Francisco Conference, and especially of Secretary of State Stettinius and Assistant Secretary Nelson Rockefeller, the twenty American republics steam-rollered the conference into admitting Argentina into its sessions as a fully participating member. They did this despite the advance warning served by Russia when she refused to sit down with Argentina at the earlier conference of the International Labor Office.

Thus on April 30 at San Francisco the group of nations with the best regional organization of their own did more than any other nation or group to foul up the machinery of Dumbarton Oaks.

From the moment of Pearl Harbor, when the American continents became involved in the war and in all their invaluable subsequent coöperation to win it, the Argentine Republic has been — to put it mildly — mulish. As late as last autumn, both President Roosevelt and Cordell Hull accurately and forcefully branded the Argentine government as fascist.

Because of her Axis leanings, the Argentine Republic was not invited to participate in the critical conference in Mexico City early this spring. But at that conference there was a general disposition to bring Argentina back into her former association with the American nations if that was humanly possible. As practically its last act, the conference laid down certain conditions under which Argentina would be readmitted to the Pan American Union and to subsequent conferences of the American states.

Those conditions were that Argentina must declare war on the Axis powers and must carry out her interAmerican pledges — by then more than three years old — to suppress Axis activities and to take over Axis economic interests within her borders.

On March 27, after the drive across the Rhine opened, Argentina finally squeezed out her declaration of war, and ostensibly fulfilled the further conditions offered her at Mexico City. Consequently, before the San Francisco Conference began, ambassadors of the other American states had returned to Buenos Aires and the republic was technically in good standing again.

Who made the promise?

But at the Mexico City meeting in March an undertaking had been cleared among the American sisterhood that after Argentina had complied up and down the line, she might sign the United Nations agreement. There was no time limit in this commitment. Argentina might have been permitted to join the United Nations at any future time without violation of any promises made to her.

No sacred pledges were given at Mexico City to force Argentina upon a world peace conference at any specific time. No undertaking signed at Mexico City entitled the fascist Farrell-Perón government to a ticket to San Francisco. But the State Department since has made it plain, with much plausibility, that it was under pressure to do the job in a hurry.

By April 30, Argentina still had not signed the United Nations agreement. In spite of this fact, in spite of her moral and technical ineligibility to participate in a United Nations conference on any terms, the State Department, with an emotionally supercharged bloc of nineteen Latin American republics at its back, insisted on bringing her in.

Petty regionalism

The only excuse for the proceeding was the State Department’s impression that some advantages might come to it in the power struggles of the conference through giving the Latin delegations the deal they wanted on Argentina: certainly it would cement those countries more strongly in a Western Hemisphere bloc captained by the State Department.

What the situation adds up to realistically is this: to fulfill a nonexistent pledge to a government which did not deserve one, the State Department built up out of petty nationalisms and the chronically nervous reactions of so many of the Latin governments a regional bloc of overwhelming power in a conference dedicated to planning the peace. It thereby not only clogged the main operation at San Francisco with unnecessary political side issues; it also endangered the eventual peace structure with the menace of a larger but a more parochial and contentious regionalism than the Western Hemisphere has ever seen.

The maneuver also ensured the breakdown of unilateral regionalism; in so far as we insist on freedom of action in this hemisphere, Russia is entitled to insist on freedom of action in the area that is of special interest to her.

The pity is that the Argentine scheme worked. Russia’s Molotov flung back at the bloc quite naturally the words of Roosevelt and of Cordell Hull branding the Argentine government as fascist. He made the obvious and instructive comparisons between the services of the Poles, including the Lublin Poles, to the winning of the war and the services of FarrellPerón fascism in Argentina toward losing it.

Molotov made it abundantly clear to the bloc that he took a mature interest in the problem of vesting power in the world peace organization. It was clear both in what he said and in the way he said it, not only that he resented the trick being put over on him, but that when it all blocked up before him on a single April afternoon he could not understand so much nonsense.

But the State Department bloc just steam-rollered on. At the end of an hour or less, Argentina was in by 31 to 4. By forcing a vote on the Argentina issue, the American delegation completely overplayed its hand. Russia was overwhelmed by the votes of minor nations, and the major issue at stake was thrown into the spotlight.

United States 2 1; Russia 3

Besides its own ineptitude, the State Department proved that in the conference at San Francisco, by lining up the nationalisms, the prejudices, and the special-interest groups, they can run the show together on the practical logrolling basis long familiar to the public of the United States through its experiences with Congress.

With Argentina in, the State Department was reasonably sure of twenty-one American votes at San Francisco on practically any issue which it chose to consider crucial. Where twenty-one votes were not ehough, we could pretty surely count on the votes of Great Britain and the Dominions.

This situation makes it more understandable why Molotov, with his dominating interest in the Security Council rather than the Assembly of the proposed world peace organization, prefers to consider the Soviet Union as sixteen republics.

Mr. Warren’s courtship

It does not lessen the confusion to say that in this controversy the Argentine Republic is a pawn. The fascist regime there unquestionably was failing fast before the State Department gave it a desperately needed shot of adrenalin at San Francisco — that is to say, before Mr. Avra Warren, Assistant Secretary Rockefeller’s official expert in inter-American matters, flew down to Argentina a few days before the conference opened, and gave his diagnosis that Argentine fascism was a healthy thing for peace and interAmerican concord.

Some two thousand political opponents of the government, however, including some of the outstanding friends of the Allies in the republic, were arrested by the Farrell-Perón police directly after the Warren visit, on charges of plotting a “pro-Nazi coup.” Despite this fact, Mr. Warren, previously chiefly famous for his successful insistence upon diplomatic recognition of the Argentine-spawned fascist government in Bolivia last summer, winged his way to San Francisco and set his stamp of approval on the Argentine government.

There are still, because of the democratic traditions and basic decency of the Argentine people and the ineptitude of the government, good prospects of getting rid of the Farrell-Perón regime. But until such deliverance comes and until the State Department wins through to freedom from fear of Molotov, only one realistic summary is possible. The new team in the State Department has won a victory — and incurred the risk of a more dangerous isolationism than Colonel McCormick ever dreamed of.

There remains, of course, the possibility that the shenanigans over Argentina may boomerang. By their eagerness to have a voice in the coming world of power, the small nations — ingenuously assisted by our State Department — may have assured the fact that they shall have nothing more than a voice.

If the Assembly of the peace organization is relegated to the status of a debating society, perhaps the body with real power, the Security Council, can ignore it more easily. If Molotov had been really Machiavellian, he would have proposed the admission of Franco’s Spain as well!