When Secretary Hull speaks on international politics, as he did yesterday, his remarks tend to fall into a certain set pattern--one characterized by generality and vague idealism, but withal imbued with optimism. This note of optimism is refreshing. However clearly the facts may point to continued economic nationalism, however loudly self-designated "realists" may proclaim the inevitability of war, there remains in every rational person the hope that civilization may yet be constrained from committing suicide; and it is encouraging to hear a man in public office expressing that hope.
Secretary Hull is not blind to the forces which would destroy the effect of his trade agreements. He realizes perfectly well that the economic philosophy of self-sufficiency, with its guns-before-butter implications, is not only growing in popularity abroad but is catching on in influential circles in Washington. He knows that the Munich agreement was merely a truce concocted by a Britain desperate for time to rearm. But what he will not do is take the next step and conclude that there is no hope.
Instead, he insists that through economic appeasement, through an extension of trade which will raise the general standard of living, the steps toward war can still be retracted. When he stated that the totalitarian states are in reality exhausting themselves while creating an illusion of strength and security, he was never on surer ground. When he described the drift to autarchy, armament, and war as a "road strewn with the wreckage of civilized man's most precious possessions", he expressed succinctly what has been said many times before, but which well deserves repetition. And when he stated that "the world is at a cross roads, but its power of choice is not lost," he included in that sentence the hope of every constructive, far-sighted thinker.