If, one year ago, anyone in public office had suggested that the heads of the so-called Big Four would sit down together and try to find approaches to settlement of the issues of the Cold War, he would have been branded as an appeaser, a crackpot, or downright subversive. As late as April of this year there were headlines warning of shooting hostilities off the China coast, hostilities that many serious students feared might trigger the whole world into a nuclear struggle.
Since the Geneva meeting of the heads of state, millions of words have been written and spoken, in an effort to evaluate the meaning of the rapid and, on the surface at least, cheerful developments that took place there. Commentaries as to the meaning of what took place range from the sentimentality of those who would have us see it all as a blissful revival of the Soviet-American honeymoon of World War II to the total and apparently cheerful rejection of everything that took place by those who, like McCarthy, see a personal stake in disaster and flourish only in periods of hysteria and despair and frustration.
Certainly this reporter has no inside information as to what it all means, and he shares with probably the most of you the understandable caution against accepting at face value whatever the communists say or do. Doubtless at Geneva there were real fears on both sides; perhaps the greatest real accomplishment may well have been the admission, by their presence at Geneva, on the part of the all the Big Four that they recognized the necessity of peace. Let us hope also that another accomplishment may have been clearing away at least some of the corrosive fears and suspicions so that real negotiation of specific issues could become possible. To suggest that we are on the threshold of an era when the tough and persistent problems of our times will vanish into the mists is wishful thinking or visionary foolishness. The tasks ahead require a blend of caution coupled with daring imagination and boldness, if anything like a peaceful world is to be achieved. The Soviets on their part will have to abandon at least some of the harsh inflexibility that has marked their behavior at many conferences during the past decade. The United States too may have to climb down from its high horse on many critical questions.
Take the question of Germany, for instance. Both sides recognize it as a crucial one. The Soviets may have to consent to really free elections, which doubtless would mean the complete loss of Germany for many Russians. But we may have to agree to the withdrawal of Germany from NATO and the demilitarization of the country under ironclad supervision by the United Nations. Neither we nor the Russians would lose face under such an arrangement, and the reunification of Germany would be accomplished without bloodshed – and such reunification is the key to peace in Europe. Why? Because the Russians have a natural and a mortal fear of a militarized Germany because within the lifetime of many Russians their country has been invaded and their population decimated by German aggressors. Moreover, Germany’s potential for industrial production and scientific achievements – in short, her capacity for making war – is so great that both the Soviets and the West would consider it a major catastrophe if a united, militarized Germany became a partner of the other.
Moreover, in another trouble spot in the world, China, it may be necessary for give and take on both sides, without appeasement and without compromise of principles. Both the United States and Red China are quibbling over Formosa. As it stands at present, China sees the situation as one where we insist on using Formosa as a base from which to destroy the Chinese government and oust the communist regime. Maybe in this case there is no easy road out. But, as was pointed out on this program months ago, Formosa belongs to China about as much as the United States belongs to England. There are ethnic and cultural ties, but that is about all. Solving the present situation may mean U.N. trusteeship for the island, minus Chiang Kai-shek (for whom some Americans seem to have an over-fondness) with a provision that after a reasonable period, say ten years, the Formosans may decide in free elections whether they wish to become part of China or go their own way as a free and independent country. Acceptance of such a plan on the part of the Chinese regime might help to establish Her pretensions to being a peace-loving nation and pave the way for diplomatic recognition by the United States and admission to the United Nations.
As indicated at the outset, there are no easy solutions to these problems. The ones suggested seem a not unreasonable approach to difficulties that are not, by any stretch of the imagination important enough to embroil the world in a war, but which, left unsolved, very well might do so. Peoples of the world want peace, not war, but unless their spokesmen at the tables of diplomacy exhibit on both sides a willingness to find and use areas of agreement, war may come. At any rate, the climate of public opinion here and elsewhere during the last six months has been encouraging us to hope that such peaceful avenues may be found and utilized.
The extent to which this question has been dealt with here today should need no explanation on a program of this kind. The present day situation of humanity is characterized by the slogan of the U.N., “One world or none.” In other words, the time is over when men and nations can be considered disconnected entities. In the mental sphere, this means full acknowledgement of the essential equality of men and the fact that neither insufficient endowment, nor unfavorable circumstances, nor peculiarities of race, class, or nation can deprive man of humanity. Technically, it means that the material base of our life today constitutes the interdependence of all human problems, which in turn implies a joint responsibility for the happiness and prosperity of the whole of mankind. The paradox of the present phase, however, is that the realization of the dignity and worth of man in the mental sphere has been made both actually possible and highly doubtful by the dynamics of the technical world. Modern technique aggravates the consequences of human conduct, which has lagged behind technical progress. This is the reason why mankind is menaced by rivalry, destruction, and poverty. But unless man succeeds in eliminating the threat of world war and solving the problems of material want and population, there will be no world in which mental freedom is balanced by social justice, and social justice should be the key concern of all religions, regardless of their nature.