"The slogan of the moment is 'Atlantic Community,'" said Max Beloff last night, beginning his discussion of "New Thoughts on the Atlantic Community." "But it's other people's thoughts that I really want to talk about."
Drawing on wide experience as historian and author, the Gladstone Professor of Government from Oxford University engaged his Lowell House audience with a perspective on the last 15 years of movement toward political and economic ties between the U.S. and Western European nations.
Beloff saw the end of World War II as the time when this country first replaced isolationism with a "Universalist" outlook. American and British ideas diverged at this point, he said; the Americans still thought in terms of great world power and saw their ideas reflected in the United Nations charter, obscuring Churchill's belief that the world was not ready for this sort of organization.
But "the basic American thinking on the post war world collapsed," according to Beloff, between 1945 and 1943 as unexpected antagonism developed between the West and the Soviet and Chinese powers. Concern for the military and political vulnerability of the once powerful Western European nations produced NATO and the Marshall Plan.
Beloff linked the United States' growing entanglement in foreign affairs during the last decade to the idea that a balance, instead of a monopoly, of nuclear arms is the best way to prevent the Soviets from splitting Western ranks by appeals to individual nations.
The speaker reminded his audience that the most careful planning and organization still could not solve all problems on the international front. "There was, and is, the accidental element," Beloff observed. "Berlin is only an incident."