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American Foreign Policy. By a Diplomatist. Boston and New York.
Houghton Mifilin Company. 1909. pp. vii, 192.
This book might more properly be called “Suggestions concerning future American Foreign Policy,” for in it the author advances his ideas of the foreign policy which he thinks ought hereafter to be adopted by the United States. In the elaboration of his proposed policy, he considers, in separate chapters, the questions which arise out of our relations with the Philippines, with the Latin Republics, with Europe in consequence of the Monroe Doctrine, with the separate European states, with the Far East, and with the Near East. He has a final chapter in which he advocates an organization of the State Department in a manner which he regards as necessary in order that his proposed policy may be carried into effect.
The main thesis of the book, stated in the first chapter, is that our traditional policies are outworn, and that a new foreign policy, based on new principles, is necessary. This proposed new policy the author calls “ the policy of understandings.” The following quotation (pp. 13–14) will explain the meaning of this expression:
The most striking development in modern diplomacy has been the vast extension given within quite recent times to the system of arrangements and understandings which now link together the nations of Europe. These differ radically from the eighteenth-century idea of alliances, which were mainly offensive in purpose, even when restricted in their liability. The new conception, on the contrary, is eminently pacific in character, and limited in application to comparatively narrow ends. It aims within certain determined regions to preserve actual conditions and to eliminate possible causes of conflict, chiefly in colonial spheres, by taking cognizance of the special or mutual interests of the powers concerned, and lending to the preservation of such agreements the force that is derived by co-operation of effort.
The author advises an immediate application by this nation of this policy of understandings, in order to forestall an imagined hostile coalition. He proposes that the United States enter into an understanding with Great Britain — and also with France, though he regards Great Britain as most important - according to which the United States would guarantee to these nations their sovereignty of their present possessions in the Pacific Ocean, and they, in return, would guarantee the integrity of the whole American continent (including, of course, the integrity of this nation itself), the neutrality of the Panama Canal, and our sovereignty of our possessions in the Pacific, and would in addition acknowledge that this nation has a sphere of influence and jurisdiction,
warranting it in active and permanent intervention to such extent as it may deem to be necessary, from the southern border of Mexico to the river Orinoco. He considers that by such an arrangement we should secure an international recognition of the Monroe Doctrine. He also asserts that such an arrangement would not entangle us in European affairs.
That this nation should ask any foreign nations to guarantee its own integrity and that of the Latin Republics, is, it would seem, inconceivable. But, if we can suppose such an action on its part, it is, it would seem, inconceivable that any nations would guarantee the integrity of this nation without their own being guaranteed in return. It is equally inconceivable that the United States should ever ask any foreign nation to recognize the Monroe Doctrine in consideration of a quid pro quo. This would be an abolition of that doctrine. The Monroe Doctrine is a permanent international fact or principle, and is not subject to bargain and sale. It has frequently been acted upon by foreign nations, and has received the voluntary recognition of the society of nations. On account of it, France withdrew from Mexico, and Great Britain submitted the Venezuelan boundary question to arbitration. It is the basis of the existing agreement between the American Republics for the advancement of their mutual social and economic interests, under the Bureau of American Republics as a permanent secretariat. In late years the position of the Monroe Doctrine as an international fact has become still more accentuated. Dr. Andrew D. White, in his Autobiography, has given a graphic account of the presentation of that Doctrine by the American delegates to the Hague Conference of 1899, as a reservation to the Convention adopted by that Conference, and of its reception without dissent. The adoption of the Drago Doctrine by the Latin Republics further committed them to the Monroe Doctrine, since it is a matter of common knowledge that the former Doctrine depends upon the latter. The acceptance by the Hague Conference of 1907 of the principle of the Drago Doctrine necessarily implied a recognition by that Conference of the Monroe Doctrine as an international fact. Dr. James Brown Scott, in his recent book on “ The Hague Peace Conferences of 1899 and 1907," well says:
The convention for the limitation of force in the collection of contract debts is a contract, entered into by the nations of the world, and, at one and the same time, a solemn and formal recognition of the Monroe Doctrine. Through Dr. Drago, the Monroe Doctrine has made its formal entry into public law as distinct from national policy.
The policy of understandings is thus seen to be inadmissible as it respects the Monroe Doctrine. But the author asserts that it is not only admissible, but desirable, as an intermediate policy between the eighteenth-century policy of alliances which would entangle us to our disadvantage, and a policy of isolation to which he asserts we are now committed. An analysis of the author's own argument will show that the policy which he proposes is not such an intermediate policy as he imagines it to be, and is in fact nothing but a policy of entanglement; and that the truth is, that our traditional policy is such an intermediate one, avoiding entanglement on the one hand and isolation upon the other.
The author admits that a great obstacle in the way of the acceptance by this nation of his proposed new American foreign policy is the doctrine of President Washington, set forth in the Farewell Address. The sentence in which Washington declared it to be “our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world ” is interpreted by the author as applicable only to past conditions, and as being, even in the past, only applicable to our relations with the states of Europe. The argument is based by him upon the sentence in which Washington laid down the principle that, “ taking care to keep ourselves on a reasonable defensive posture, we may safely trust to temporary alliances for extraordinary emergencies.” It will at once occur to any one that the understandings proposed by the author do not fall within the class of “temporary alliances for extraordinary emergencies,” which Washington regarded as permissible, but within the class of “permanent alliances," which were regarded by Washington as inadmissible.
Washington gave his reasons for advising against permanent alliances in that part of the Address in which he asserts that, for any favor which one nation accepts from another, whether it be by way of commercial or social preference, or by way of military or naval assistance, “it must pay with a portion of its independence.” It is evident from a careful reading of the Address that it was because of this inevitable loss of independence by a permanent alliance that Washington characterized permanent alliances as necessarily “entangling.” To state more fully Washington's reasoning, it seems to be this: Any permanent alliance, whether by express agreement or by understanding, necessarily involves either that one nation shall commit itself to some extent to the policy of the other while the other's policy remains unchanged, or that both shall commit themselves to a policy of compromise between the policies which each, if not allied to the other, would pursue. Such yield
ing by one nation to another, or such compromise between them, Washington rightly described as “entanglement."
This " Washington Doctrine" -- if so it may be called — asserts that the true policy of this nation (and incidentally of every nation) is to keep on equal terms with other nations by dealing justly with all. This is not a policy of isolation, but a policy of self-reliance based on the intention to do justice and to see that justice is done. The isolation of this nation to which Washington in the Farewell Address called attention was a geographical isolation. From this geographical isolation arises, as he said, a peculiar opportunity for this nation to assert and maintain his doctrine. This geographical isolation is a permanent fact, and the peculiar opportunity of this nation as a member of the society of nations, to which he refers, is thus a permanent opportunity. The Monroe Doctrine is essential in order that we may take advantage of our opportunity.
Adherence to Washington's principles does not involve dissent from the author's view that there ought to exist between this nation and Great Britain a peculiar bond which ought gradually to increase in strength. The political conceptions of Great Britain, like those of this nation, are based on English jurisprudence and English public law, and tend naturally, in the course of their evolution, to assimilate themselves to those which were worked out by this nation in the stress of the Revolution and during the period when the Constitution was being formed. In so far as such a bond may exist, there ought to result from its existence, according to Washington's principles, not a semi-secret understanding, but an open and peculiarly harmonious cooperation of each nation with the other for the maintenance of the peace of all nations through the doing of equal justice to all. Such cooperation would of course be entirely consistent with both nations cooperating with other nations for the same purpose.
But it is not necessary to base the objections to the author's proposal upon any national doctrine. There is a much wider ground of objection. It seems clear that it is a misinterpretation of history to regard the “policy of understandings” as a new policy destined to supplant our existing policy, and that the truth is that the “policy of undersiandings” is only a survival, in a disguised form, of the old policy of alliances which is itself outworn and which is destined to be supplanted by the very policies which are traditional with us. The author by necessary implication himself suggests the weakness of his proposed policy when he likens
a diplomacy which rests upon the “policy of understandings” to a gambling operation. He says (p. 32):
The nations of Europe have been aptly compared by M. d'Haussonville to a party of gamblers seated around a green cloth grown somewhat shabby with age, where each in turn takes the bank. A newcomer enters, his pockets bulging with gold, and startles the players into a fear that he may at once break the bank. In destroying the time-worn conception as to the exclusive supremacy of Europe, we appeared as intruders, and as such were unwelcome.
Change has come through the enlargement of what had been a restricted horizon to its present globe-embracing proportions. A concert of world-powers has dispossessed the concert of Europe. While the European nations are rapidly adapting their diplomacy to conform to the new requirements, we have emerged from our aloofness handicapped by the weight of a traditional policy no longer in touch with actual conditions.
The “ green
cloth about which the nations of the world are seated is not “shabby with age,” but is that of a new green table of an international conference held in the country consecrated by the genius of Grotius to the conception of the whole world as a society of nations, existing under and recognizing a supreme law which all nations ascertain and enforce. When one considers the establishment of the principle of international arbitration and the pending negotiations for the establishment of a permanent international court, it seems strange indeed to apply to the nations of Europe or to the concert of all the powers the simile of "a party of gamblers seated around a green cloth grown somewhat shabby with age.” Such a simile would, however, be entirely proper as applied to a society of nations whose relations should be determined by their various semi-secret understandings. However necessary such understandings as the author proposes may be for certain nations in order temporarily to tide over exigencies growing out of the inheritance from the past, they are happily not necessary for this nation.
The author fails to appreciate the rapid and persistent evolution of what Rivier aptly called “the common juridical conscience,” which is steadily abolishing the game of diplomacy by producing a world-wide conviction that stability of existing governments is to be brought about only by the doing of justice; that justice can be done only through the establishment, by common consent, of just principles of political, social and economic law; and that it is the province of diplomacy to recognize existing laws, to evolve new laws to meet new conditions, and to formulate just agreements based upon these laws.
This nation, steadfastly adhering to the principles of Washington, has