Let Us Have Peace
J. Reuben Clark, Church News, November 22, 1947.
The international gospel of the Founding Fathers was forecast by Jefferson in 1793. It was voiced by Washington in his Farewell Address in 1796, when he declared we should have “as little political connection as possible with Europe,” because Europe has a “set of primary interests” with which we had “none or a very remote relation,” wherefore “must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concern;…why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor, or caprice? It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world.” The Monroe Doctrine declaring against the future colonization of the American continent by Europeans, against the extension therein of their political system, against interposition by European powers to control the destinies of the Latin Americas, implemented the principles of the Address. And Jefferson, commenting in 1823 on the Monroe Doctrine, and the complete political separation of Europe and the Americas, solemnly affirmed: “Our first and fundamental maxim should be, never to entangle ourselves in the broils of Europe; our second, never to suffer Europe to intermeddle with cis-Atlantic affairs”
Nor may we overlook that great doctrine of neutrality set up under Washington himself and Jefferson and Hamilton, which was aimed at and brought about the localizing of international armed conflicts, and the preservation , under prescribed rules, of peacetime intercourse between belligerents and nonbelligerents. War was to curse as few people as possible. This has been jettisoned for the concept that every war should involve all nations, making all suffer the ravages of a global war.
Until the last quarter of a century, this gospel of the Fathers was the polar star by which we set our international course. In the first hundred thirty years of our constitutional existence, we had three foreign wars, the first merely the final effort of our Revolution, which made good our independence. During the century that followed we had two foreign wars, neither of considerable magnitude. During the next twenty-three years, we had two global wars. While the gospel of the Fathers guided us we has peace. When we forsook it, two great wars engulfed us.
It is not clear when we began our wandering, nor is it necessary to determine the time. President Theodore Roosevelt was hinting our straying when he uttered the dictum “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” We were to force others to do our bidding. President Wilson had the full departure in mind when he declared: “Everybody’s business is our business.” Since then we have leaped ahead along the anciently forbidden path.
In our course under the new gospel of interference with everything we do not like, we have gone forward and are going forward, as if we possessed all the good of human government, of human economic concept, of human comfort, and of human welfare, all of which we are to impose on the balance of the world,— a concept born of the grossest national egotism. In human affairs no nation can say that all it practices and believes is right, and that all others have that differs from what it has is wrong. Men inflict an unholy tragedy when they proceed on that basis. No man, no society, no people, no nation is wholly right in human affairs; and none is wholly wrong. A fundamental principle of the operation of human society is to live and let live.
Yet, to repeat, we have entered into new fields to impose our will and concepts on others. This means we must use force, and force means war, not peace.
What has our apostasy from peace cost us?
In men, our two recent adventures have cost in casualties, dead, wounded, and missing, 1,402,600, with almost as many saddened and crippled homes.
In money it has cost, in World War I, some $60 odd billions; and World War II cost us some $400 odd billions, including increased civilian help, in total, almost a half a trillion, the great bulk of which we still owe.
In spiritual values it has brought great numbers of our youth and older men to the very depths of desponding atheism. Our whole social structure seems undermined. We are becoming a blaspheming, unchaste, non-Christian, God-less race. Spiritually we seem ripe for another war.
In values of government and law, these wars and the interminglings of men of different concepts of freedom and human rights, have brought into our own system, the despotic principles of European systems, against which the Fathers warned, though they came to us through doors the Fathers did not see. Many and influential persons amongst us, of Alien concepts and sometimes of alien birth, no longer admit that man possesses the inalienable rights of the Declaration of Independence and the fundamental precepts of the Constitution. Our courts no longer guarantee these rights and enforce these principles. We have and are aping and adopting the policies and the legal theories of Europe. Colonel House records that when President Wilson hesitated to launch us into the first World War, because he did not know what measures to take to wage the war, he, Colonel House, assured the President that it was simple, all he had to do, said Colonel House, was to do the things Europe had already done. And so we proceeded, and from then till now, we have constantly and more and more adopted European governmental concepts and laws, to the loss of liberty and of the happiness and security of our people.
All this takes us into a situation that places our destinies largely in the hands of those who appear to be urging us towards war, not peace.…
It is time we returned to the political faith and work of the Fathers. It is indispensable that we do so if we are to have peace. I believe in the old faith and the old works, under which we had so much of peace. I am a political isolationist in the full sense of the term and am not fearful in declaring it.
I am a political isolationist because:
I fully believe in the wisdom of the course defined by Washington, Jefferson, and other ancient statesmen. The whole history of America before and since the Revolution proves the truthfulness of their assertions. All during our pre-Revolutionary history we were at war, we were robbed, plundered, and massacred because of European wars in the issues and causes of which we had no concern. History is repeating itself.
I believe American manhood is too valuable to be sacrificed on foreign soil for foreign issues and causes.
I believe that permanent peace will never come into the world from the muzzle of a gun. Guns and bayonets will, in the future as in the past, bring truces, long or short, but never peace that endures.
I believe President Wilson had the true principle when he spoke of the strength and power of the moral force of the world. Moral force in a nation fructifies industry, thrift, good will, neighborliness, and the friendly intercourse of nations, the peace that all men seek; whereas force is barren.
I believe America’s role in the world is not one of force, but is of that same peaceful intent and act that has characterized the history of the country from its birth till the last third of a century.
I believe that moral force is far more potent than physical force in international relations.
I believe that America should again turn to the promotion of the peaceful adjustment of international disputes, which will help us regain the measureless moral force we once possessed, to the regeneration and salvation of the world. We now speak with the strong arm of physical force only; we have no moral force left.
I believe we should once more turn our brains and our resources to the problem, not of killing men, women, and children, combatant and noncombatant, but of bringing to them more of good living and high thinking.
I believe political isolation will bring to us the greatest happiness and prosperity, the greatest temporal achievement not only, but the highest intellectual and spiritual achievement also, the greatest power for good, the strongest force for peace, the greatest blessing to the world.
I am not shaken in my convictions nor frightened by the assertion of many good people and fostered by the communists and “new thoughters,” that the doctrine of the Fathers is outmoded, and that we are in a new world. All the age old forces are still peering out at us, — greed, avarice, ambition, selfishness, the passion to rule, the desire to enslave for the sordid advantage of the enslaver. Not a single wanton face is missing and the visages of some are more hideous than ever. While radar, the radio, the telephone, the airplane have facilitated our talking and visiting with our neighbors, that have not made new beings out of use nor out of them, nor changed either our characters or theirs. We are just as we were, with the possibility of a little more back-fence gossiping and quarreling, and a little more brawling among the children. But the households remain essentially as they were. We still have oceans between us; we live on different continents, under different conditions. We can and should mind our own business and let others do the same.
In my view, our whole international course and policy is basically wrong, and must be changed if peace is to come. Our policy has brought us, and pursued, will continue to bring us, only the hatred of nations now — and we cannot thrive on that, financially or spiritually — and certain war hereafter, with a list of horrors and woes we do not now even surmise. If we really want peace, we must change our course to get it. We must honestly strive for peace and quit sparring for military advantage. We must learn and practice, as a nation and as a world, the divine principles of the Sermon on the Mount. There is no other way.
Someone will, at this point, play the ace question, with that smug finality that always accompanies it, — What would you do?
I frankly answer, I do not know, for I do not know the facts. Furthermore a critic with no authority or power in a situation, and from whom is withheld a knowledge of facts, is under no obligation to propose an alternative. He may rest by pointing out defects in policy.
On the other hand, I say, give us the facts, all of them, hiding nothing, and we shall tell you what to do. As one American citizen, I dare government to give us the facts, all the facts, including what kind of war they think the next war will be, what kind they intend to wage, and how many lives it will cost, including the aged, the infirm, and women and children.
We, the common people, have not been told the facts for years, since long before the last war broke. We are not now being told the facts. We can only surmise. But give us the facts and we will answer. And in our multitude of counsel you will find wisdom.