As conflicting definitions of co-existence rattle about the Congressional chambers, the debate over the desirable direction to steer American foreign policy continues unsettled. Defiantly arguing against the Administration are extremists like Senator Knowland who urge that violent action against the Soviets is America's only chance for survival. The foreign policy split is particularly aggravated by the continual juggling of the co-existence idea. Whereas the Soviets' use of the word has given it the unsavory flavor of "appeasement," Knowland has pushed further by charging that co-existence will allow Russia to swallow the free world. Unfortunately, the extremist attitude toward foreign policy both confuses the meaning of co-existence and limits its value as a practical approach for meeting the Soviet threat.
But by twisting the co-existence idea to fit their harsh policy for handling Russia, Knowland and his crew have slipped into logical difficulty. The California Senator argues that co-existence is only a "Trojan Horse" which the Soviets will use as a stall until they can achieve an atomic stalemate "sometime between 1957 and '60." After that Russia "will seek to take over the peripheral nations bite by bite." The major error in his reasoning is the idea that a weapons stalemate will not occur for a number of years. Not only is it impossible to make an accurate count of armaments, but in an era of atomic platitude a slight advantage in weapons provides a nation scant protection against destruction of its own cities. The question, then, is whether the United States can prevent the present stalemate from channeling into a Soviet victory.
If Knowland's loaded dice definition of co-existence is accepted, then the only solution is to agree with his argument that the United States must attack the Soviet homeland at the slightest provocation. But his reasoning is little short of "preventive war" enthusiasm and would threaten the U.S. with a total conflict involving no real winners. It is the very danger of hydrogen warfare that prompted Eisenhower to affirm that outside of co-existence "there is no alternative to peace." The fallacy of Knowland's charge that co-existence will mean ultimate Soviet victory is best shown by returning to Churchill's original definition of the policy.
The British Prime Minister's idea of co-existence, the one generally accepted by Eisenhower, is no soft-headed approach to the communist threat. He maintains that there is a "new hope of peaceful co-existence with the Russian nation and that is our duty, patiently and daringly, to make sure whether there is such a change or not." Advocating that the free world look for areas of agreement, however, does not include the relaxation of military strength. The Nine Power Treaty is applauded by Churchill as "a monument and milestone" in the program for co-existence. His basic attitude is that "Our strength can only be founded on the unity, precautions and vigilance of the free nations of the world."
Actively following Churchill's policy of co-existence would result in a positive, realistic approach to the present East-West power struggle. Rather than accept Knowland's plea to snap diplomatic lines with Moscow, the free world should seek reasonable accommodations. The West should make every attempt to neutralize future struggles by political and economic adjustment. Despite Knowland's fears, total war is not inevitable. Through the habit of searching for agreement, the possibility of ultimate settlement becomes increasingly feasible. By avoiding world conflict, the Western allies need not succumb to "nibbling aggression." For co-existence, clearly seen, is a guarded and armed accommodation with the Soviet Union.