Chapter 1 of Speak Truth To Power

Facing The Paradox

"An endless pressing, pressing, pressing on the nerve of power... if you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face-forever."'


". . . our age will be remembered chiefly neither for its horrifying crimes nor for its astonishing inventions but for its having been the first age... in which people dared to think it practicable to make the benefits of civilization available for the whole human race."'


The World Scene

We are all engaged in the fulfillment of prophecy. Little less than a century ago the Swiss historian, Jacob Burckhardt, prophesied the coming of a new order of barbarians whom he called the Terrible Simplifiers, who would govern Western society by applications of force and terror on a scale no one had ever used before. And just after the opening of this century, Henry Adams, observing the same social factors at a later stage of development, predicted that in less than half a century "law would disappear as a theory or a priori principle and give place to force; morality would become police; explosives would reach cosmic violence; disintegration would overcome integration."[3]

But the worlds of Burckhardt and Adams, swept up in a blind confidence in material progress, ignored their warnings. We had but to conquer nature, and the Golden Age would be upon us. Now we have succeeded. Man has in large measure mastered the instruments of physical power. He has probed the secrets of the atom. He knows how to manipulate money and markets, machines, and other men to his own advantage. He can fly in the air and sail under the sea. But he has not yet learned how to walk on the earth in peace. Far from giving him mastery over his world, man's triumph has apparently brought with it only the fulfillment of terrifying prophecy.

More men tremble under the shadow of cosmic violence than ever before. Coercive systems or military demands are, in fact, driving states to replace morality with police. Explosives have become totally destructive. Acceptance of the doctrine of violence is so widespread that man is becoming hardened to mass extermination, and indifferent to mass human suffering. Indeed, man's indifference to violence is almost as disturbing a symptom of our time as his readiness to practice it. This is an age of violence.

It is also an age in which individual personality is being crushed by the spread of totalitarian doctrines. The growth of centralized authority, whether it stems from ideological concepts, from military necessity, or simply from the complexity of industrialized life, is producing a depersonalized society in which men are pressed into a common mold and made to conform to accepted standards of thought and behavior. The noble concept of the supremacy of the individual, so deeply rooted in the Judaeo-Christian tradition, is rapidly losing ground to various forms of totalitarianism. Centralized authority, rather than individual conscience, is the dominant force in large segments of East and West alike.

But this is also an age of revolution. Never before has the door to abundant life, in the physical sense of the word, been so near to opening. We now have the means to supply food, clothing, shelter, health and education to all mankind on a scale never before dreamed. We could abolish at least the more degrading forms of poverty. Moreover, the larger and less privileged portion of the human family now knows that this is possible. Such knowledge gives fresh impetus everywhere to, man's eternal aspiration for recognition and human dignity. This, in itself, is a new situation and lies at the root of the revolution of the common man.

But the great industrialized nations who are keepers of the door to abundance do not open it; indeed, they even resist its opening. Why? Because they concentrate on satisfying their own desires; and so, on the very threshold of liberation from want and of emergence into freedom, millions of people tremble under the shadow of power struggles between nation states armed with the weapons of cosmic violence. The new technology has been perverted to the deification of the state at the expense of the individual, and for the millions there is neither bread nor freedom.

Whether we will or not, we are all involved. To the United States the central issue appears to be the struggle against coercive communism; yet there exists the paradox that men who long for freedom are willing to accept so easily the doctrines of political totalitarianism. The truth is that the real paradox inherent in our age is more deeply rooted and more widely spread, for it grows out of the very mastery of the instruments of power that man so confidently sought. Poverty and wealth, hunger and food, insecurity and power, bondage and freedom, war and peace-these are the real paradoxes that bewilder men in the middle of the Twentieth Century. Still, hope remains inherent in change. Man was born for freedom, and he struggles in constant conflict with himself to understand and escape the paradoxes that confuse him.

The Response of the United States

Violence, totalitarianism, and social revolution-these are the salient characteristics of our world. They must be dealt with, not only by governments which represent, more or less well, the collective will of geographical groups of individuals, but also by individual men in ordering their own lives and their own governments. One of the most profound problems that man must face arises from the conflict between his individual response to his world environment and the political response of the group of which he is a part. As Americans, we are both individual children of God with deep commitments to the supremacy of conscience, and citizens of a nation that plays a major role in shaping and meeting the issues that surround us. We are the state, but we are also free men. How can we contribute to the solution of the key problems of our day: the peaceful resolution of conflict, the liberation of the human spirit, and the conquest of physical poverty? This is the question with which this study deals. It begins by summarizing the policies this country has actually followed in the years since the war and assessing their results.

During the latter part of World War II large numbers of Americans shared the widespread hope that an era of lasting peace could arise out of the final defeat of fascism. American planning for the post-war period reflected this idealism, and for perhaps the first time in history, government leaders weighed seriously the requirements of peace in global terms. Traditional great power preoccupation with national self-interest was tempered by altruism. The United Nations was born in San Francisco, and plans were laid for a world-wide and internationally administered program of relief and rehabilitation. Hopes were high that the war-time partnership of great powers could be carried over into the post-war era.

Unfortunately, these hopes were not realized. The melancholy history of twenty years of pre-war hostility had produced in both Russia and the West mutual suspicions too profound to be broken down by an uneasy war-time alliance. As far as the United States was concerned, national interest required that we balance altruism with a military policy designed to safeguard the nation and protect American property, American standards of living, American privileges, and American ideas. Naval and air power was maintained and atomic weapons development pursued with undiminished vigor so that even before the so-called "cold war" began, the military budget of the United States never fell below ten billion dollars. In charting this course American motivation was clearly selfish in part, but it also was generous in part, for we count ourselves trustees and guardians of man's noblest concept of social organization. Moreover, in so far as possible we have tried to achieve our aims without either interfering in the affairs of other nations or rousing their antagonism; but those have been secondary considerations to be sacrificed when national interest seemed to dictate.

This policy quickly brought us into conflict with the Soviet Union. It, too, was projecting a policy based upon the same powerful combination of self-interest and devotion to a social philosophy; and in addition, its policy was marked by the fanaticism and aggressiveness that often accompany newly won power seeking to make itself felt. Thus it was all but inevitable that these two dynamic power centers should clash, when both existed in a world made one by the discoveries of science and rendered explosively unstable by social revolutions of continental proportions. Almost immediately after World War II, therefore, the conflict of interest between the United States and the Soviet Union took the center of the world stage.

The American people, led by their government, came rapidly to see in this new colossus the ultimate threat to both their existence and their democratic philosophy. Soviet leadership, fanatically devoted to communist doctrines and wielding its power through propaganda and armed force, seemed determined to spread its philosophy and its control through all the world. For the United States to resist this new aggressor, our leaders insisted that it was necessary to build up military power sufficient to deter the Soviet Union from further expansion. Thus driven by the spectre of communist imperialism, American policy makers came early to focus their attention on military alliances, on establishing control over strategic areas, expanding our network of military bases, searching for new and more powerful weapons and exploiting every other means to secure the national interest and safety.

As for the Soviet Union, it obviously harbored from the beginning even deeper suspicions of the United States because, in its case, historical experience was backed up by the Marxist-Leninist doctrine of capitalist aggression. The Soviet Union emerged from the war still distrustful of the West, still confident of its world mission, and now vested with new power and new prestige. It apparently determined to exploit its new position through a dynamic foreign policy designed to advance Soviet interests at every point. In any event, the facts are clear. The Soviet Union continued to maintain its army at an inflated level. It announced a series of three five-year plans that focused strongly on heavy industry and arms production. It interfered in the affairs of neighboring states to insure the establishment and maintenance in power of governments friendly to its point of view. In short, it exploited every possible means to secure its national interest and safety.

In this situation there is little to be gained by determining which nation displayed the first ill will. Much more important is the fact that hostility has bred hostility until the clash between the two giants has come to dominate the international scene. Military security, rather than concern for the world's ills, has become the principal factor in the planning and execution of our national policy, and its demands have produced ever more stringent measures to counter the moves of the Soviet Union. Military aid to Greece and Turkey was proposed in 1947 shortly before the formal enunciation of the containment plan, which became the cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy. The idealistic economic program associated with the name of Secretary Marshall was unfortunately advanced almost simultaneously with the policy to contain the Soviet state and communism by force. Thus it foundered on the rock of mounting hostility, and gradually was subverted into a powerful weapon in the cold war. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization followed in 1949, the Korean war and U.S. rearmament in 1950, the South Pacific Pact (ANZUS) in 1952, proposals to rearm Germany and Japan in 1953, announcement of the hydrogen bomb and massive retaliation in 1954, and even in 1955 there are few promising signs of any end to the hostility.

Recognized Inadequacy of the Response

This situation has troubled many who sense that a policy oriented predominantly around the military containment of a single rival cannot deal adequately with global problems. Is it possible with this concentration of material power, they ask, to take sufficient notice of the underlying ways through which ideas are spread and influence exerted? How can this American response meet the needs of Asians, whose great social revolutions are now treated in terms of their strategic relationship to the cold war? How can we speak to the world-wide longing for the liberation of the human spirit, when our own spirits are infected with fear? When we arm ourselves, are we not also provoking others to arm, and has not this process in the past ended in war? What reason do we have for believing it will be different this time? Is it possible for us to wield such power without ourselves becoming corrupted by it and falling victim to the same evils we deplore in others?

These are profound and disturbing questions-profound because of their far-reaching implications and disturbing because we believe the answer in each case must be, on the basis of the evidence, other than what we might hope. It should be clear that in reaching this judgment we are aware of other more positive aspects of American policy that are aimed directly at meeting underlying problems and building understanding among peoples. But these other measures have had less attention and less emphasis than that which has been given to military preparedness. It is the latter which has come to dominate American policy formation, and because most men make their judgments only on what is most obvious, it is our military policy that is the basis for much of the world's judgment of the United States. This is the impact we want to examine, and without at this point questioning the necessity for the policies themselves, we suggest that the following are facts that need to be recognized:

1. The influence of the Soviet Union, and the appeal of its communist doctrines, have grown steadily since the end of World War II. While there has been some holding back of the tide, notably in Iran, Greece, and Latin America, the world balance is clearly in the other direction. United States military policy did not keep China from falling into the hands of the communists. The influence of the communist parties in Italy and France continues strong, and conditions favoring the growth of communism in Latin America and Africa remain unchanged. In Southeast Asia communist influence, has increased steadily, despite American arms and a developing bulwark of military alliances. Most tragic of all is the example of Korea where the climate of cold war first erupted into bloody violence. Here, after disastrous attempts by both sides to reunite Korea by military force, all that is left is a devastated nation, more bitterly divided than ever, and at least as far from democracy and freedom as it was in 1945.

Moreover, the way we have responded has led to a weakening of our own position in the world. American prestige abroad has declined seriously, and we have lost much of the good will that was formerly ours. Our preoccupation with anti-communism, our insistence on dealing from military power, our determination to rearm the very nations that millions fought and died to disarm, our hydrogen bomb experiments-these have not cemented our relations even with those nations whom we call allies. Thus, at the very time when we are confronted with the fact of communist expansion, we find ourselves with fewer friends.

Many thoughtful men insist that Soviet expansion has at least been deterred by the weight of American power. A case can indeed be built to support such a thesis by pointing to isolated fronts at given moments of time, but we believe the world-wide scene is still one of growing communist influence. Moreover, the history of attempts to keep peace by amassing fearful weapons has not been encouraging. Their deterrent value has been real, but it has been temporary, for sooner or later resentment and anger have outstripped fear, and war has broken out. It may be that the ultimate horror of atomic weapons will prevent history from repeating itself, but no such outcome can be assured, and we feel little confidence in any policy that rests on such an uncertain hope.

2. Our policy has confirmed Marxist doctrine and hardened attitudes within communist countries. Suspicion of the capitalist world is inherent in communist doctrine, and it would undoubtedly have existed in great measure in Soviet Russia and China regardless of external developments. Unfortunately, our American response to the world situation has tended more and more to give them material for the confirmation of their attitudes. Repression and absolute authority are made easier to institute and maintain when a dictator can point to a hostile outside world. Encirclement, inflammatory speeches and maneuvers may be necessary aspects of military preparedness, but they serve to harden the attitudes and fortify the tyrannies of dictators.

3. The principles for which the United States stands have been seriously undermined at home and abroad. Since 1945 there has been a steady erosion of the values that were formerly considered the very foundation stones of American democracy. Proceeding from the false assumption that whatever is anti-communist is therefore democratic, many Americans have supported or acquiesced in measures that have generally been considered central characteristics of totalitarianism: spying on fellow citizens; anonymous denunciations; restrictions on freedom of movement, speech, and press; prosecution for beliefs rather than acts; the reversal of the traditional presumption of innocence until proof of guilt; the gradual militarization of our minds and our society; and the growing confusion of our thought and language until we no longer feel any astonishment at the use of a phrase like "the free world" to include all nations, however dictatorial, and colonies, however exploited, that are not under Soviet control.

Moreover, this impact on democratic values at home has led to a weakened respect for democratic values abroad. When a great democracy cynically enters into alliances with totalitarian governments, when it supports openly a corrupt status quo, or when it displays a thinly disguised contempt for those who resist taking sides, the result is to undermine confidence in the philosophy that permits these things to happen. We believe that anti-communist hysteria, whether reflected in foreign policy or in domestic policy, is exacting a heavy toll on the standing of American democracy at home and abroad.

4. Far from making us more secure, our policy is increasing the insecurity of the United States and of the rest of the world. Military weapons have been developed to the point of such absolute power that the entire world is now approaching absolute insecurity. Even before the advent of the hydrogen bomb, some military experts had reached the conclusion that progress in the development of super-weapons made war no longer a feasible instrument of national policy.

. The production of the hydrogen bomb, which makes it clear that man has within his hands the power to destroy all life on our planet, marks the end of a road. The nuclear physicist has now written, in letters so large that none can fall to read them, the Twentieth Century corroboration of Jesus' assurance that all who take the sword will perish by the sword. It has been truly said that as our strength approaches infinity, our security approaches zero. The H-bomb gives us, not power to secure ourselves, but only the power to destroy the world.

5. Our moral standards have been debased. Here we come to a final and most terrifying result of the use of military power as our chief instrument of international policy. Though it is as yet hardly perceived, it is the spiritual price that man pays for his willingness to resort to violence that is its most tragic aspect. We ask our fellow citizens to consider what has happened to the soul of America in less than two decades.

In 1936 the Italians bombed the Abyssinians, and a sense of shock swept over an America outraged by such barbarism. In 1940 came the Nazi bombardment of Rotterdam, and again we cried out against wanton destruction and the needless loss of Dutch lives. But this was war in which our own interests and later our own men were involved, and somewhere in between the attack on Rotterdam and the utterly unjustifiable destruction of Dresden four years later, we experienced the ultimate horror that there was no horror. Dresden perished almost unnoticed, and we were ready for Hiroshima. Today our strategists suggest that, under our policy of massive and instant retaliation, it may be necessary to loose our atomic arsenal on China, and few voices cry out in the moral wilderness. We pride ourselves on our Judaeo-Christian heritage, and all that it represents in moral and spiritual achievement, yet one must go far back into the history of man's search for truth in the Book of Genesis to find in the story of Lamech the counterpart of the doctrine of massive retaliation. Have we really advanced so little in these countless centuries of search?

Nor is cheapening of life the only price. Moral values everywhere have been debased by the strategies of national interest. In 1953, needing an election victory in Germany and a propaganda victory in the cold war, the United States government invited hungry East Germans to cross the border into West Berlin to receive free American food in a well publicized and well conducted distribution that lasted until the elections were safely over and won. In connection with this operation, the words of Dean Grueber from the pulpit of the Berlin Cathedral should be carefully pondered by all Americans: "Verily, when the members of the church help each other it is like the miracle of the loaves and fishes.... But when a charitable project is undertaken without the true spirit of love, the blessing turns into a curse.... We absolutely refuse to cooperate with those persons or powers who use works of charity to disguise their political and propaganda warfare."[4]

We find other sobering examples in the American offer to pay $100,000 for the delivery into our hands of a Russian jet plane, and in our cool decision not to allow Chinese students to return to their homes and families on grounds that their talents might be exploited to the ultimate detriment of the United States. What is happening to our whole standard of values? It is true that money will buy the allegiance of some men, just as food will buy that of others, and atomic power that of still others, but none will purchase their respect, which is beyond price. America must take care, lest its growing insensitivity to suffering and its faith in dollars and explosives rob it of its moral strength. This is what resort to violence must eventually do to a people, whether in the name of fascism, nazism, communism, or democracy. This is what militarization is doing to America.

Positive Alternatives

While not everyone assesses the results of present policy in the sharp terms that we do, we believe there is no longer any doubt in the minds of concerned men that the American response to its world responsibility in the years since 1945 has been inadequate. Our leaders have stated time and again that the real hope of peace lies in disarmament, in developing world organization, in fundamental attacks on poverty. President Truman lifted the hopes of the world in his 1949 inaugural address with the "bold new program" that became known as Point Four. President Eisenhower followed with his celebrated disarmament speech before the American Society of Newspaper Editors and his atoms for peace address at the U. N. The note struck in these presidential utterances has been warmly echoed by the American people. Resolutions on the positive requirements of peace have poured in a steady stream from church conferences, labor and farm conventions, academic associations, women's clubs, civic and veterans' groups, and from many other points where concerned Americans assemble.

The almost forgotten art of pamphleteering has been revived in the serious effort to assert ideas and put forth constructive suggestions as to how our country could more adequately meet the responsibilities with which it is confronted. This Committee itself has issued three such pamphlets analyzing problems of world order and suggesting approaches to peace. One of the striking factors about all this concern and effort is the relatively high degree of agreement among these diverse groups as to what should be done.

In the first place, almost all of them suggest the need for an expanded program of economic assistance to help underdeveloped countries help themselves. We know that peace ultimately depends on raising the level of life of sick and hungry millions, and many point out that beyond the desire for peace lies the responsibility to minister to those in need. Proposals for technical assistance or economic aid are often linked with suggestions regarding free trade and capital development, but in any event, there is wide agreement that the United States could make an important contribution to peace by more vigorous support of programs of an economic nature aimed at raising world living standards.

A second series of proposals focuses on the need to renounce colonialism. Exploitation and white domination of Asian and African peoples must be finally eliminated if peace is to emerge and national aspirations are to find their legitimate fulfillment. Suggestions in this general area have found particularly strong support because the United States has always been relatively free of colonial involvements abroad, and is making notable progress in eliminating its own internal colonialism, in the growing emancipation of the Negro.

A third series of proposals relates to the general field of disarmament. These range all the way from suggestions endorsing simple standstill agreements to elaborate plans detailing the steps, the safeguards, and the timetable of a universal disarmament program. Others deal with specialized problems of atomic arms control or with suggestions for breaking the immediate deadlock in great power discussions of the problem. All urge renewed efforts to achieve progress, and nearly all envisage as the goal a complete, enforcible and universal disarmament down to the level necessary for the maintenance of internal policing.

A fourth series relates to the United Nations and the growth of world government. There is wide agreement that the U.N. needs to be "strengthened" to become a more effective world organization. Some propose that this will require revision of the Charter in the direction of real world government, others that the U.N. must be made into an agency for collective military action, and still others that the best hope lies in its operating agencies and in developing its functions of peacemaking and mediation. The various proposals all serve to emphasize the wide recognition given the United Nations as the best organizational instrument we have, and one which somehow has been too little considered in the rapid pace of world developments.

These are among the main threads that run through the proposals for peace that have been made in recent years. However, suggestions of other kinds are legion. Studies of mediation problems, critiques of post-war negotiation, proposals for creating a united, independent, and neutral Germany and for aiding in the economic rehabilitation of Japan, suggestions for the building of a United Europe-all these have been brought forward through the period.

Our Failure to Act Constructively

Americans have not been lacking in ideas or in interest, but the results of their efforts are meager. The world continues to drift uncertainly on the edge of war, with each new crisis threatening to topple it over. The conditions that breed violence and the hatreds that divide men continue unchecked, despite the ebb and flow of tension at high political levels. Economic assistance programs grow smaller rather than larger and are more and more designed to meet strategic considerations instead of human need. The arms race continues unchecked and even in the midst of disarmament discussions, we proceed with vigor to plan the rearmament of Germany and Japan. The United Nations continues to languish, used too often as a cat's paw in the implementation of cold war strategy, and too little in the important moves of the great powers. Many millions of the world's people remain beyond its influence either because they live under colonial rule or because their governments are deemed non-admissible. The tragedy of this decline is only heightened by the reality of United Nations' accomplishment. The work of its specialized agencies and its notable success in international mediation are indications of what might be, were we but able to alter the world climate.

The tragedy of this situation is all too apparent. Though we try to congratulate ourselves on our economic prosperity, our welfare programs, and our great ideals, we are forever haunted by the spectre of nuclear power. The people of the United States are uneasily aware that carefully nurtured international hatreds and the fear that flows from bomb tests and arms races must some day erupt in violence, and that when they do, all that we love and cherish will surely be swept away. They are aware, too, that something other than military preparedness is needed to prevent disaster, and there is a sense of urgency about the search for a more adequate policy.


What is it that blocks our efforts? Men of good will both in and out of government ought to be able to arrest this spiraling pattern of futility. Why is it that hopeful proposals have so often remained only idle, intellectual exercises printed in pamphlets or embodied in Congressional resolutions or enunciated from lecture platforms? We believe the principal cause lies in a crucial factor that has either not been recognized or has been rejected as too unpleasant to face.

Russell Nelson
Last modified: Sat May 24 01:03:20 EDT