The American Ditchley Foundation Lecture series, inaugurated this year, marks the bicentenary of the cessation of hostilities between Great Britain and the United States, announced by General George Washington on April 18, 1783.
Two hundred years ago our two nations ended a harrowing struggle and painstakingly began to forge, over the years, a new and special relationship unique among nations in modern history that has done much to shape our world for the better. We have together built a partnership based on common language, culture, law, values, and security that has been of great benefit to both of us, and, I believe, to other nations as well. As we begin the next hundred years, I feel certain that our shared values will endure and that together we will overcome the daunting problems that confront a restless world.
We are especially fortunate that Lord Home of the Hirsel consented to deliver this inaugural lecture entitled “Today’s Challenges to Democracy.” During his more than half century of service to his nation, he has made extraordinary contributions in foreign affairs, as well as in the Prime Ministry, and has demonstrated an abiding devotion to the Anglo-American alliance and to the protection and preservation of our common heritage. We on both sides of the Atlantic are in his debt for his unswerving dedication to the safeguarding of freedom and justice.
In his participation in our bicentennial commemoration, Secretary of Defense, Caspar W. Weinberger referred tellingly to the heart of the Anglo-American relationship. “We all know of the special relationship between our two countries—common traditions, shared language and a rich culture. But the greatest bond between the United States and Great Britain is the belief that underlies all of these—our belief in the sacred rights of man. We have built our history, our culture, and our governments on the foundation of the rights of the individual. We know that if every citizen of our lands is free to express his opinions, to exercise his religious beliefs and to realize his talents to the utmost of his abilities, developed and honed by our free educational institutions, and encouraged to climb any ladder he or she may choose—if we are all free to do that, then our nations and our people will be rich in spirit, and we and the cause of freedom will flourish together.”
On behalf of American Ditchley, I thank the many people who have assisted in making this commemoration possible and who have joined in this rededication to our values and highest hopes for the future.
Cyrus R. Vance
CHAIRMAN of the AMERICAN DITCHLEY FOUNDATION
Today's Challenges to Democracy
Lord Home of the Hirsel
When a peal of bells rings out on the air it signals an occasion for rejoicing, and that happy state we shall enjoy when, punctual to the hour, the two Ditchleys from either side of the Atlantic mark and celebrate the 200th anniversary of the end of the American war of independence, and the beginning of peace with England.
Washington and Franklin were wise in their generation and their foresight, for, out of the blood and sacrifice of conflict there has blossomed over the centuries a partnership and an alliance which is of deep significance for the peace of the whole world.
In the United States of America and in Britain we are pledged to promote the basic values of democracy which we see embodied in our Constitutions, and which we hold in trust for generations to come. That is the message of optimism, faith, and hope which the Bells will proclaim.
Of course our common language helped us to interpret the one to the other, but you will not misunderstand me when I say how lucky it was for both of us that Montesquieu thought like an Englishman; for the Declaration of Human Rights which your Federated States placed in the forefront of all their Constitutions was virtually identical with the clauses of our Bill of Rights of 1689 of which Montesquieu was a student and admirer. That (although Magna Carta takes the limelight) was for us the first real social contract between King, Parliament and people.
So when, later on, Lincoln made your ringing declaration in favour of “Government of the people, by the people and for the people” we instinctively understood your ambition, for it was also our own.
Your elected Presidency and our hereditary Monarchy were taken in our stride, for did not your own Patrick Henry say of the new Constitution “it squinted towards Monarchy?”
So in terms of democracy we proceeded on our parallel lines, giving precedence to Parliament (two Houses) and to the law, and adopting the essence of freedom by separating the Executive from the Judiciary.
We do not boast of our institutions. Franklin said of your pattern of democracy, “I consent to this Constitution because I expect no better, and I am not sure it is not the best.” Winston Churchill said of the Westminster brand, “Doubtless it is the worst form of government were it not for all the rest.”
No one who witnesses the sheer physical torture of the election of an American President can doubt the dedication of the United States to democracy.
But comparisons are odious. I learned that when I heard one man ask another, “How’s your wife?” to receive the surprising reply, “compared to what?”
So I will no longer talk of “you” and “us” but of “we” as we face together the challenges posed to democracy in the modern world. They are economic and political and military. One lesson we have learned is that the good does not automatically come off best on this turbulent globe. If we value our inheritance we must be vigilant for our destiny.
Winston Churchill it was who, faced by a waiter in the Savoy Hotel in London with a pudding which was shapeless and sprawling said, “Take that pudding away, it has no theme.”
In this complicated and rather messy modern life it is difficult to keep hold of the “theme” of democracy which must surely be the survival of individual man as a beneficiary of creation.
Are we, with all our sophistication, supplying man’s minimum needs? They are modest. They have not varied much in 2000 years; they are food, shelter, security and work by which man sustains his usefulness and expresses his personality and guards his dignity. Food, shelter, work are primarily the business of the science we call economics.
I confess that I have never moved easily in the upper air of the theoretical economists, although I have been dutifully ground between the upper and nether millstones of Maynard Keynes and Milton Friedman. The only formula for solvency to which I have ever subscribed with conviction ran like this. “When a man says to you my word is as good as my bond, always take his bond.” The I.M.F. please note!
However, gropingly and hesitatingly, after years of travail we do seem to be identifying certain elements in economic strategy which are necessary to the working of capitalism operating in a reasonably free market.
The first is the defeat of inflation, because the continuing fall in the value of money is the most debilitating and demoralising disease from which a community can suffer.
The second is the promotion of productivity because there is no other way to earn the wealth which is needed to sustain the superstructure of civic and social services which the people of the advanced democracies now claim as a right.
The question which arises acutely is whether in a democracy of one man, one vote, the wage and salary earner will accept the disciplines which are necessary for today if he is to have jam tomorrow? Education is making some progress, but it is touch and go.
There is another and consequent question to be asked which I believe is of increasing significance. Can the capitalist system of the mixed economies give work for the majority of the populations which their past wealth has brought into existence?
It may sound a blimpish conclusion, but if, as I am inclined to believe, there is a strong correlation between work and man’s content with himself and with his citizenship, then it is imperative that our systems find the answer to the underemployment of today. After previous industrial revolutions industry has absorbed the majority capable of work. Is this going to be true of the age of the micro-chip? It is a question to which the two Ditchleys might profitably apply their inventive minds and their wisdom. So far capitalism has delivered the goods and communism has failed; all the more vital is it that our democracies should not falter in the quality of life which they give to their people.
When in Britain we had to make the transition from Empire to Commonwealth it took us some time to recognize the loss of income and power which would be the consequence. Mr. Dean Acheson kindly if crudely put the truth into words. Britain had “lost an Empire and failed to find a role.”
It was clearly in Europe that we had to look for cash and influence, for by the loss of Empire we were translated back to our historical status of just another European power.
I will illustrate our new/old standing with a story which was circulating in the corridors of the United Nations when I was there in 1963. It concerned the offer by the Devil of one wish each to President Kennedy, Chairman Khrushchev and Mr. Harold Macmillan.
“Your wish, Mr. President?”
“100 megaton bombs.” “And yours, Chairman Khrushchev?”
“200 megaton bombs.”
“And yours, Mr. Macmillan?”
“A scotch and soda please, but serve the other two gentlemen first.”
Europe is in our league.
There are some in Britain who would take us out of the Community. I will suggest three strategic reasons why their advice will be rejected.
- What would Britain look like outside the external tariff of the Community for that is where we should be?
- How could we leave an empty chair at the Council table when ten of our neighbours will be taking economic and political decisions vital to our destiny?
- Any why should we abandon our unique qualification for interpreting America to Europe and vice versa, believing as we do that the peace and prosperity of the world rests on that understanding?
The European Community will present the United States with some problems, but when that happens I hope you will recall that our performance as an ally depends upon our economic wealth and our political influence and authority.
There will be squalls which will ruffle the surface of the Atlantic, but they will be as nothing compared to the still depths of friendship and understanding which bind Britain and Western Europe and America together.
When the squalls happen I trust that you in America will understand the absolute importance of the political cohesion of Western Europe in the overall strategy of the campaign for freedom and Britain’s part in it.
Let me tell you too that whatever may be Europe’s failures in your eyes, when we hear isolationist talk in the United States we have the grace to shake in our shoes.
I turn to the last of the basic needs of man which I have named—physical security. The ability of man to go about his lawful occasions in peace.
A cursory glance at history and it is clear that he has never enjoyed that happy state, and a look around the world will confirm that he does not do so now.
I am going to skip the refinements and boldly assert that the only area of the world in which men and women have felt a reasonable prospect of living under law and order and in peace have been those living under the scope of the NATO alliance, or in the Pacific under America’s umbrella. Doubtless after 2000 years man ought to have found a better way to order their lives than through military groupings and a balance of military power.
America and Britain hoped for collective security provided by the United Nations, but that prospect was frustrated. So we are left with the United States and Western Europe seeking a balance of power to neutralise the potential aggression of the Soviet Union. For the sui’e lesson of this century is that, should there be a threat to the peace from a major power, it takes the resources of Europe and America to hold the enemy or to deter him. It is not a case of either America or Europe, survival requires both.
Churchill used to say of the Soviet Union: “A bear in the forest is a proper matter for speculation; a bear in the zoo is a proper matter for public curiosity; a bear in your wife’s bed is a matter of the gravest concern.”
It was Communist Russia’s aggressive posture which brought NATO into existence, and it is her massive rearmament and the menacing catalogue of the occupation of Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan, the horrifying sight of the Berlin Wall, and the pressure on Poland which compels the Western democracies to retain their guard.
NATO can hold the balance of power provided the alliance is allowed by public opinion sufficiently to match Russia’s weaponry both conventional and nuclear. Such a balance will carry conviction with the Soviet leaders.
Early in life when I joined a cavalry regiment I began to take an interest in army manuals. A sentence in one of ours read—”Field officers on entering balloons are not expected to wear spurs”!
In every Russian political and military manual it is clearly stated that, should their armed forces be met with superior or equal strength, the order is tactical retreat against the day when the potential victim may be less alert.
The danger to the democracies is that nuclear weapons raise deep emotions, and that public opinion is failing to understand the relentless pursuit of military superiority by the Russians, and that their immunity from pressure may place the democracies at a fatal disadvantage. Should that happen Russia could only interpret it as a loss of nerve.
So far the large majority of the electors in Europe have shown themselves hard-headed. They reject unilateral disarmament; they accept that there is not a shred of evidence to suggest that Russia can be disarmed by example, and that there is much evidence that, given a concession without a quid pro quo, they will pocket the bonus and proceed on their militarist way. They are realistic enough to understand that given disarmament on a plate, there would be no incentive for Russia to negotiate a mutual balanced and verified programme. Nor will they fall for the blatant propaganda that NATO is being pushed into an offensive policy by trigger-happy America. All that you will find to be true.
It is in this sensitive area of political education and presentation and decision that America and Britain must work hand-in-hand.
There is, however, a sense in which all of us however experienced in the field of international relations and the corridors of statecraft and diplomacy, are affected by the misgivings and fears when armaments assume the nuclear dimension. We are influenced by our membership of the Christian Churches. What is our moral duty? Each must answer the question according to his own conscience and conviction. I start from the premise that all wars of aggression are evil and should be condemned irrespective of the weaponry which is employed. But, as a realist, I have to face the fact that there are evil men in the world— covetous men who believe they can profit from war.
I can find nothing in the Christian teaching which forbids me to defend myself when faced with an aggressor who aims to destroy my religion and all the values which I treasure in my way of life. Still less can I count it unchristian to seek to deter evil men from launching war.
But if I and others take that line there is an obligation upon us to prove to those.who falter in fear, that strength is compatible with conciliation, and that our purpose, if they will allow it, is to find an honourable modus vivendi with Russia.
If therefore in Europe we are to carry our people in support of the policy of deterrence it will be necessary to convince them simultaneously on two matters. The first that the Western alliance will make the running on disarmament. The second that such proposals as are advanced cannot be put in the category of propaganda, but are realistic and practical. The Russians we know never traffic in ideals. Europeans are less inclined to a public confrontation with words and more favourable to quiet and firm diplomacy.
I commend the technique which the Western allies contrived on the approaches to the Helsinki Conference.
In accordance with that precedent our proposals to the Russians on disarmament should be so demonstrably equitable and practical that the onus is plainly on Russia to adopt them, and the responsibility clearly seen to be on them if they reject them. The West has not yet achieved that effect; it is not beyond our skills and our diplomacy to do so.
Verification will be an essential of any plan. With Russia’s record nothing can be taken on trust.
One of our Ambassadors once sent a telegram to the Foreign Office “I cannot exaggerate the danger of the situation here, but I will do my best.” In this talk I have tried to keep an even judgment and approach.
I am an optimist provided America and Britain and our allies keep our nerve and our poise.
At Ditchley over the years many distinguished people from America have pooled their wisdom and the conclusions of their fertile minds in the hope of contributing to a solution of the puzzles of the day. Long may the twin Ditchleys collaborate through the generations in search of the truth.