John Foster Dulles ’08
Alan W. Richards.
An Appeal for a Dynamic Foreign Policy Under the Moral Law

I give you three propositions by which to measure the present international situation.

My first proposition is this: The dynamic usually prevails over the static, the active over the passive.

As between stone and water, which will prevail? The answer is: whichever is in motion. Water in motion will wear away stone that is still; but a stone that is thrown will penetrate the water.

The United States, however massive be its material might, can be destroyed by forces that, in themselves, seem weak, if these forces are active and if we are passive.

The leaders of Soviet Communism are great believers in a dynamic offensive. The Party has always measured its strength in terms of intensity, not of numbers. Stalin teaches that the Party should never be more than a minority because a minority can be dynamic, whereas a majority becomes lethargic. Communists choose to be a small group of high velocity rather than a group so large that it can only sit.

They have done well. A small group which 35 years ago had no political power anywhere in the world, now controls 800 million people, or over one-third of all the people that there are in the world. Already they have a record catch, and unfortunately there is nothing to suggest that they have caught their limit.

In every country which is still noncommunist, they are working actively for power. I keep in touch with their press through various summaries. Their news and editorials always discuss hopefully the further countries which may be added to their “camp.”

On the other side is the so-called “free world.” We seem primarily concerned with trying to hold on to what is left. The most discussed topic is: can we prevent the communists taking over this or that country? The attitude of the free peoples is almost wholly defensive, and any suggestion that we take a positive attitude evokes cries of alarm.

The communism of Soviet Russia and its satellites represents today the active, dynamic elements and the free world represents the static, passive element.

My second proposition is this: In human affairs, the non-material or spiritual element is more important than the material.

I do not ignore the importance of military and economic power at this time, but Napoleon, who was no dreamy-eyed idealist, said that in war the non-material is to the material as 3 is to 1.

Orthodox communism is materialistic but communists do not deny the existence of non-material forces. That, Stalin has said, would be “vulgar materialism” which would mean “passivity and inanition.” He interprets Marxism as “stressing the role and importance” of “social ideas, theories, political views and political institutions.”

It is through social ideas, Stalin says, that communism is “capable of setting into motion broad masses of the people and of mobilizing them and organizing them into a great army of the proletarian party, prepared to smash the reactionary forces.”

Accordingly, Soviet Communism has devoted itself to the development of slogans which will capture the imagination of the masses. They wave banners inscribed with “peace,” “democracy,” “disarmament” and “social welfare,” and they pin on us the labels of “imperialist,” “colonialist,” “militarist” and “warmonger.” They spend on such propaganda approximately $1,500,000,000 a year.

It is primarily through social ideas that Soviet Communism has achieved its victories. Almost no part of its expansion has been due to the old fashioned method of open military aggression. The successful weapon has been political warfare, with the main reliance placed on revolutionary slogans which arouse the masses to Soviet-directed violence.

The free world has failed to draw strength from ideas. We, more than the communist world, think and work in material terms. The United States has given and loaned abroad almost $40 billion since the end of the fighting and that is a great deal of money. We are spending $60 billion a year on armament and that, too, is a great deal of money. But, today, a revolutionary spirit grips over half of the human race. There are passions that cannot be allayed by oil royalties or suppressed by foreign guns.

It would seem that the non-material forces are principally serving the opposition.

My third proposition is this: There is a moral or natural law not made by man which determines right and wrong, and conformity with this law is in the long run indispensable to human welfare.

This proposition is perhaps more debatable than the two preceding ones. Certainly it is one that Soviet communism does not and cannot accept. For while communism can admit that ideas exist and have power, it cannot, as an atheistic creed, admit of moral laws being superior to those that are made by man or by matter. Stalin denies the existence of such verities as “eternal justice.” Laws, to the communists, are not an expression of right, as against wrong. Laws are the means whereby those in power overcome their enemies.

Our nation was founded by men who believed that there is a Divine Creator who endowed men with inalienable rights. They believed, as George Washington put it in his Farewell Address, that religion and morality are the great pillars of human happiness and that morality cannot prevail in exclusion of religious principles.

Our Federal and State Constitutions, our laws and practices reflect the belief that there is a Being superior to ourselves who has established His own laws which can be comprehended by all human beings and that human practices should seek conformity with those laws.

Seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness many material things were added to us. We developed here an area of spiritual, intellectual, and material richness the like of which the world has never seen. What we did caught the imagination of men everywhere and became known everywhere as “the great American experiment.” Our free society became a menace to every despot because we showed how to meet the hunger of the people for greater opportunity and for greater dignity. The tide of despotism, which at that time ran high, was rolled back and we ourselves enjoyed security.

That mood seems to have changed. Professor Arnold Toynbee, one of the great historians of our time, finds that the crisis of our civilization is due to the fact that our practices have been divorced from their Christian context, so that we have "been living on spiritual capital. Practice unsupported by belief is a wasting asset, as we have suddenly discovered, to our dismay, in this generation.”

So, on my third proposition, while Soviet Communism wholly fails to invoke moral principle, we ourselves are not doing much better.

The total conclusion I draw is that as things now stand, the prospects are not encouraging from the standpoint of the free world. However, there is no reason why matters should stand as they are.

Our work on the Japanese Peace Treaty is, perhaps, most valuable if it enables us to glimpse what is possible when we are dynamic, when we invoke ideas, particularly those which accord with the principles of the moral law.

In that matter, we sought to become a dynamic rather than a passive factor. As General MacArthur said to us when we talked with him in Tokyo in June 1950: “The most impelling need of the moment is the regaining of our lost initiative over the events which are stirring all of the Asian peoples.”

The prospects were not promising. Since 1947 peace efforts had been made and they had all failed in the face of the cross currents which had by then turned the United Nations of the war into the Divided Nations of the peace. In 1950 we had no assurance, if we led, that anyone would follow. The decision was not an easy one. But the President took it with a resolution and determination that made manifest to all the world.

Often in those first days I was asked how we could solve this or that problem. I had no advance solutions. I could only say that if we could develop a momentum for peace, that momentum would itself compel a solution of problems which, in the abstract, seemed insoluble. And so it proved. Within precisely one year of the day when the President made his decision to proceed, there was concluded a final peace treaty which represented the greatest unity for peace-making that the world has ever seen. Of 51 noncommunist nations invited to San Francisco, no less than 49 accepted and signed the Treaty of Peace. All of the continents, all of the race, all of the civilizations – the great and the weak, the rich and the poor, the near and the far – were for this moment united in an act of fellowship.

The Soviet Union and its satellites suffered their most humiliating defeat in conference history. The free world, this time, had the initiative. It was the Soviet Union which was trying to block peace. And the dynamic prevailed over the static, the active prevailed over the passive.

Our dynamism was, of course, in spiritual rather than material terms. It could have been otherwise. The United States, as the principal victor over Japan, was in physical occupation of Japan, and we could have invoked material power to impose our wishes. We did not, however, rely on that kind of power. We believed it was possible to secure united action by appeal to reason. With the cosponsorship of the United Kingdom the proposed peace terms were submitted to all of the Allies, in a broadly based negotiation, which employed no material coercion and which did not measure by material scales a nation’s right to influence the character of the peace. In that way we achieved a result far more impressive than any that could have been achieved had our primary dependence been upon material power.

In the third place, the non-material force we invoked was that of the moral law. We could have invoked the power of evil. There was in the world plenty of that – of hatred, vengefulness, distrust, fear, greed and arrogance. But neither unity nor true peace could have been won by appealing to men’s baser instincts. That attempt, while tempting, would almost surely multiply jealousies and antagonisms and sow the seeds of another war. So we invoked the spirit of forgiveness to overcome vengefulness; magnanimity to overcome hatred; humanity to overcome greed; fellowship to overcome arrogance; trust to overcome fear.

All of the delegates at San Francisco who accepted a religious view of the world, whether Christian, Buddhist or Moslem, found inspiration from the fact that the Treaty invoked the principles of the moral law, and the Conference became the expression of dynamic and righteous faith.

I do not exaggerate the importance of that moment. It does not mean that we made a perfect Treaty. Indeed, the delegates disclaimed perfection. It does not mean that the Peace will necessarily be durable. That will depend upon the future. It does not mean that hatred, jealousy, vengefulness and distrust have been abolished. They were denied credentials to the Conference, but they are still loose in the world.

But if we do not exaggerate, also let us not minimize. What happened showed again, at a time when perhaps it needed showing, that not merely physical law but moral law has reality and power. Perhaps having seen what we saw at San Francisco, we will go on the recapture the dynamism, the trust in non-material factors and the faith in moral law which have so long made our nation great in the best sense of that somewhat ambiguous word.

There comes a time in the life of every great people when their work of creation ends. They lose their sense of purpose and of mission in the world, seeking only to conserve what they have. Material things begin to seem more important than spiritual things and security seems more a matter of military defense than of spiritual offense.

Surely that hour has not struck for us. We have, to be sure, become rich and, in worldly terms, we are reckoned among the great. Our economic productivity is three or four times that of Soviet Russia. Our deficit is in the non-material things. We should, however, be able easily to make good that deficit. We are not an old and decaying nation. We are still young in terms of national life expectancy. We are still imaginative and creative and our people are still imbued with religious faith. There is no reason whatsoever why we should stand frightened and on the defensive in the face of Soviet Communism. On an impartial appraisal of our relative capabilities, it should be the despots, not we, who do the trembling.

You, who are graduated from a great seat of learning, founded by Christian people who believed in the moral law, surely have a special responsibility in this matter. A few who are dynamic are better than many who merely sit. Let us be among the doers.


This was originally published in the March 7, 1952 issue of PAW.