Pessimism From Providence
Last week, at Pembroke College's opening convocation, President Henry M. Wriston of Brown University publicly came to the horrendous conclusion that "formal peace making is already a failure" and termed the United Nations "a squalling brat of an infant with only a fifty-fifty chance of survival." Passing on to the war-spawned and Willkie-coined phrase, "One World," President Wriston declared that "we do not have 'one world' even in the physical sense any more," alluding to the shooting down of American fliers over Yugoslavia. Wriston concluded with the remark that "if peace is to come, it must be peace within your own minds and hearts."
Few pundits or citizens will disagree with Wriston's statement that, fundamentally, peace to be permanent must arise from within each individual citizen of every nation of the earth; permanent peace cannot be imposed from above, but many will take issue with Wriston's prematurely pessimistic conclusion that the United Nations has failed in its efforts to achieve lasting peace.
After World War I, isolationists and liberals disillusioned with Versailles, alike, joined in temporary alliance to sell this country the defeatist bill of goods that the war had been fought in vain and that this country's "national sovereignty" was contingent on its avoidance of foreign infection from international organizations. And so the upper chamber of this nation's legislature, incidentally breaking Mr. Wilson's heart, decided not to involve the United States in the League of Nations lest this country be drawn into another World War. Russia was not permitted to become a member state of the League. And the League of Nations, lacking the power and support of the two mightiest nations of the earth, slipped steadily down the road to World War II.
The United Nations differs fundamentally from the old League in that those two nations are the leading participants in the present world organization. President Wriston sees only "a squalling brat of an infant" in the United Nations, but that organization has substituted organized disagreement for the international chaos that accompanied the League. Where, in the 1920's, most international disputes sidestepped an ineffective League and were temporarily resolved through clandestine power politics, today's international organization has permitted a thorough airing of all cancers of controversy and has brought disagreement before the court of world public opinion.
Last week, in an atmosphere greatly cleared by the Wallace squall, both President Truman and Premier Stalin stated that their countries do not wish war and that in their informed opinions, World War III is neither imminent nor inevitable. President Wriston's personal estimate may vary, but nevertheless, it would seem a bounden duty upon all citizens to cooperate in every way with the United Nations in its search for peace. Rifts between East and West may be resolved only through the mutual adjustments, agreements and conciliations afforded by a world organization. In 1919, this nation squandered its opportunity to strive for peace; in 1946, this nation cannot afford to lose its second chance to make this earth one world.