Radio Address Delivered by the Secretary of State at Washington on August 16, 1938, on “International Relations and the Foreign Policy of the United States83a

All nations have a primary interest in peace with justice, in economic well-being with stability, and in conditions of order under law. These are constant objectives of this country. Each of these objectives is today seriously jeopardized in many parts of the world. All governments and all peoples should therefore be on guard against certain dangerous developments which imperil them, and be alive to the issues involved.

Out of these menacing developments there has arisen and there confronts the nations today a clear-cut issue: Is the future of the world to be determined by universal reliance upon armed force and frequent resort to aggression, with resultant autarchy, impoverishment, loss of individual independence, and international anarchy? Or will practices of peace, morality, justice, and order under law, resting upon sound foundations of economic well-being, security, and progress, guide and govern in international relations?

As modern science and invention bring nations ever closer together, the time approaches when, in the very nature of things, one or the other of these alternatives must prevail. In a smaller and smaller world it will soon no longer be possible for some nations to choose and follow the way of force and for other nations at the same time to choose and follow the way of reason. All will have to go in one direction and by one way. The first of the alternative ways leads through military adventuring to international lawlessness, the result of which is chaos and loss of the precious values which, through centuries of struggle, toil, and sacrifice, civilized nations have slowly achieved. The other way leads, through exercise of moral restraint and observance of international obligations and treaties, to conditions of order based upon law, giving security and facilitating progress.

In the circumstances which prevail in the world today, no nation and no government can avoid participation in determining which course will be taken. The issue is fundamental. Consciously or unconsciously, every country is throwing the weight of its attitude and action, positive or negative, toward one course or the other. The degree to which each nation will influence the ultimate decision will [Page 472] depend on the earnestness with which it espouses and supports the principles on the side of which it chooses to range itself.

The World War left a legacy of deep-seated maladjustments within and among nations. But out of it also emerged a passionate desire among peoples everywhere for enduring peace, order, and progress.

For a decade following the Peace of Versailles, the peoples of the world worked earnestly toward those ends, and considerable progress was made. But unhappily the rapid growth of economic nationalism following as an aftermath of the war culminated in 1929 in world-wide economic catastrophe. Political controversies and conflict, aggravated and intensified by world-wide depression, undermined the whole structure of world economy and of law and order among the nations.

Economic stability, financial stability, social stability, and in the last analysis political stability, are all parts of an arch resting upon the foundation of trade. No modern industrial nation can maintain proper existing standards of living without international trade. Raw materials and other commodities are indispensable for the maintenance of industrial processes; and foreign markets for the sale of a nation’s products are likewise indispensable for its economic life. Shut off from international trade, nations face deterioration and decline.

As trade barriers mounted on every side, as the movement toward economic nationalism gathered momentum, it became only too clear that either the excessive trade barriers between nations must be reduced or the pressures of nations to gain access to needed raw materials and to equally necessary foreign markets by conquest of additional territory and tactics of the mailed fist would become intensified.

Against this world background this country embarked upon a program for the reduction or elimination of excessive trade barriers and for the elimination of uneconomic trade discriminations and other unfair trade methods. In 1934 the Congress passed the Trade Agreements Act for the achievement of these purposes. Since then our country has vigorously engaged in trade-agreement negotiations with an increasing number of countries, and it has tirelessly urged upon other nations the imperative need of pursuing a similar course.

Concurrently with efforts to restore international commerce upon this constructive basis, we have also pursued—and have urged upon other nations—parallel and complementary policies in the field of finance, restoration of stability of foreign exchanges and of monetary conditions, and the inviolability of financial obligations and undertakings.

Unfortunately, as time has gone on, the disintegration of the structure of world order under law and the abandonment or repudiation of the principles underlying it, have proceeded with staggering rapidity. Orderly and peaceful processes and methods of international cooperation have in many regions given way to military aggression [Page 473] and armed force. Today, invasion of territory of sovereign states, destruction of lawfully constituted governments and forcible seizure of hitherto independent political entities, interference in the internal affairs of other nations, wholesale violation of established treaty obligations, growing disregard of universally accepted principles of international law, attempts to adjust international differences by armed force rather than by methods of pacific settlement, contemptuous brushing aside of rules of morality—all these appalling manifestations of disintegration seriously threaten the very foundations of our civilization.

Inasmuch as the processes of disintegration and deterioration in international relations are plainly spreading in many directions, the curative processes must be no less broad in scope and more effective in character. Not only has the rebuilding of a sound economic structure become absolutely essential, but the reestablishing of order under law in relations among nations has become imperatively necessary. Hence, while continuing and intensifying our effort to promote economic reconstruction, the Government of the United States has enlarged the scope of its effort and is urging upon all nations adoption of a comprehensive program embracing both economic reconstruction and revitalizing of principles which are indispensable for restoration of order under law.

There is and there can be no doubt as to the preference and desire of the people of this country. We want peace; we want security; we want progress and prosperity—for ourselves and for all nations. Our practical problem is that of finding and employing the best methods, of keeping our eyes and our feet upon the better way, of cooperating with other nations that are seeking as are we to proceed along that way. On this problem the Government of the United States has been and is constantly at work. Toward its solution, we sought at the conference at Buenos Aires in December 1936 to broaden our combined economic and peace program by proposing and urging upon peaceful nations everywhere adoption of a program based on principles of world law and international order. This program calls for constant reaffirmation, revitalization, and stressing of fundamental principles. Its essential points cannot be too often stated.

We believe in, we support, and we recommend to all nations economic reconstruction as the foundation of national and international well-being and stability.

We believe in, we support, and we recommend adherence to the basic principles of international law as the guiding and governing rules of conduct among nations.

We believe in, we support, and we recommend respect for and observance of treaties, including, in connection therewith, modification of provisions of treaties, when and as need therefor arises, by orderly [Page 474] processes carried out in a spirit of mutual helpfulness and accomodation.

We believe in, we support, and we recommend voluntary self-restraint, abstention from use of force in pursuit of policy and from interference in the internal affairs of other nations, and the settlement of differences by processes of peaceful negotiation and agreement.

We believe in, we support, and we recommend to all nations that they be prepared to limit and progressively reduce their armaments.

We believe in, we support, and we recommend collaboration between and among representatives of the nations, and in the freest possible intellectual interchange between and among their peoples—to the end that thereby understanding by each country of the problems of others and of problems that are common to all may be promoted and peaceful adjustment of controversies be made more readily possible.

We believe in, we support, and we recommend international cooperation in such ways and by such methods as may be practicable for the advancement of this program.

Taken as a whole, this program envisages continuous progress over a high and open road toward long-view objectives. We are convinced that this program offers to all nations the maximum of possible advantage and the fullest possible opportunity to safeguard and promote their own welfare and with it that of the world community of which they are members. We are also convinced that no other program can in the long run check and reverse the present ominous drift toward international anarchy and armed conflict on a gigantic scale which, if it comes, will destroy not only the material achievements of past centuries but the precious cultural and spiritual attainments of our modern civilization.

The Government of the United States, with the support of an alert public opinion in this country, has earnestly sought and is seeking to make appropriate contribution to the carrying out of this program.

The people of this country are each day more accurately visualizing the conditions which prevail and more fully understanding the problems that are involved in international relations. They are becoming increasingly concerned over the spread of international lawlessness and its adverse effect upon the present and future welfare of our own country.

Each day’s developments make more and more clear the fact that our own situation is profoundly affected by what happens elsewhere in the world.

Whatever may be our own wishes and hopes, we cannot when there is trouble elsewhere expect to remain unaffected. When destruction, impoverishment, and starvation afflict other areas, we cannot, no matter how hard we may try, escape impairment of our own economic [Page 475] well-being. When freedom is destroyed over increasing areas elsewhere, our ideals of individual liberty, our most cherished political and social institutions are jeopardized.

When the dignity of the human soul is denied in great parts of the world, and when that denial is made a slogan under which propaganda is set in motion and armies take the field, no one of us can be sure that his country or even his home is safe. We well know, of course, that a condition of wholesale chaos will not develop overnight; but it is clear that the present trend is in that direction, and the longer this drift continues the greater becomes the danger that the whole world may be sucked into a maelstrom of unregulated and savage economic, political, and military competition and conflict.

Hence it is necessary that as a nation we become increasingly resolute in our desire and increasingly effective in our efforts to contribute along with other peoples—always within the range of our traditional policies of nonentanglement—to the support of the only program which can turn the tide of lawlessness and place the world firmly upon the one and only roadway that can lead to enduring peace and security.

So far as this country is concerned, we shall continue to do everything in our power toward keeping alive and fostering and cultivating the various features of this broad and comprehensive program, a program in which we most sincerely believe, to which we give our constant support, and which we earnestly recommend to all other governments and peoples for general adoption.

As more and more nations accept this program and demonstrate their will to work together for the restoration of sound economic relations, of international morality, and of the principles of international law and justice, it will become more clear—even to the nations which now profess to place their reliance solely on a policy of armed force—that the overwhelming majority of mankind is determined to live in a world in which lawlessness will not be tolerated, in which order under law will prevail, and in which peaceful economic and cultural relationships will be inviolate.

  1. Delivered over the red network, National Broadcasting Company; reprinted from Department of State, Press Releases, August 20, 1938 (vol. xix, No. 464), p. 117.