Chapter 6 - Freedom from Fear

Posted in The Forgotten People

The Four Freedoms
Freedom from Fear

When the President made freedom from fear one of his four freedoms for which the Allies are fighting, he no doubt had in mind freedom from international crime which cast a shadow over the world for years before the war actually broke out.

How are we to win freedom from this kind of fear?

First, by utterly defeating the Axis Powers. The criminal must be resisted and defeated if honest men are to sleep quietly in their beds. And "utterly defeated" means what it says. No compromise, no partial victory will do. However many years of struggle it may mean for us in our generation, there must be no peace without complete victory. A half-won peace would be no better than an armed neutrality. Fear would continue. The volcano would smoke and rumble and no man would feel safe.

It is perhaps easier to say "no peace without complete victory" than it will be to live up to it. We shall all grow terribly weary, and sometimes sick at heart. We shall from time to time find ourselves looking back to those earlier days of peace which, in retrospect, will look so sunny and carefree. But we shall have to conquer weariness and look and move ever forward. For upon our complete victory the future of our race and of the world will assuredly depend.

It is a hard doctrine but a true one that Germany and Japan, the arch law-breakers, the dark angels of fear, must be made to know the whole anguish of war and learn the salutary lessons of defeat. Too often in modern times has war been to Germany an expedition of power and glory on other people's soil. She must know what it means on her own. She must be made to realise that war does not pay; that crime leads to punishment; that the rights of the world are greater than those of the German Empire.

And so of Japan. She, too, has fought her wars in Manchuria and China and the East Indies, and must learn the grim lesson that war comes home.

Second, when victory has come, how is the peace to be kept? For if it is not kept, fear will revive, and the grievous burden of armaments will once more bear down men's minds. Do not let us try to answer this question dogmatically, because we are as yet a long way from winning the war and nobody can foresee the exact shape or even the vague outline of the post-war problem.

But meanwhile, certain things are worth remembering and thinking about. Why did the League of Nations fail to prevent war? Was it because the United States of America stood aloof? Perhaps that was part of the reason. The league, with the United States in and active, would have been much more like a League of Nations and much less like a partial league of some nations.

But that is not the fundamental reason for the league's failure. I am convinced that it failed because it never succeeded in being more than an alliance for certain purposes between certain nations who retained their full sovereignty, their own policies, their own armies and navies and air forces, and prides, and ambitions.

The idea of a League of Nations was that international law should prevail among nations just as our domestic laws prevail inside our own boundaries. But men live peaceably, and for the most part law-abidingly, inside their own countries for three main reasons: Each citizen gives up his own absolute individual sovereignty in favour of the greater sovereignty of the State and the greater average security and freedom which will result from such sacrifice. It is only in a state of anarchy that men claim absolute sovereignty for themselves. Next, each citizen gives up the right to defend his own security by armed force and in return gets force used as an instrument of the State. In other words, private bodyguards become public police. And finally, the great majority of citizens inside a country have an instinct to obey the law, and that instinct has, as a rule and with no doubt certain setbacks, grown in strength with time.

Now, this third reason will not for many years apply to nations as it does to men. But can the first two?

Would you, if you were in charge of our affairs at the end of the war, be willing for us to enter a League of Nations which was a sort of super-State and which could give us orders?

Would you be agreeable to complete national disarmament, permitting perhaps a small force to restrain domestic violence, and the putting of all armed forces into the hands of the super-

State - the League of Nations? The Royal Navy, the Royal Air Force and so on, would disappear. The League of Nations, on a sort of international federal system, would keep the peace while the constituent nations attended to their civil affairs.

If you tell me that this sounds fanciful, I am bound to agree. The difficulties in the way of it are enormous. Our deep-seated national instincts, traditions, may make it impossible. "What?" we shall say, "A sovereign people abandoning some of their own sovereignty?

And yet we must think earnestly about it, because the alternative to a real League of Nations with real power - and no League of Nations can have real power if all its members are themselves armed to the teeth - is the old system of military alliances, nations being grouped and balanced according to their understanding of their mutual interest. And while nations A, B and C are allies in one group and nations D, E and F allies in another, we can never be free from international fear. It may be that such a system is the only one which is practicable in this world of men, but if it is there can be no guarantee of peace.

Once more I point out that I am not professing to make answers. I cannot see the future. The world may come out of this struggle so nauseated by the destruction and beastliness of war tht the most revolutionary ideas on national status will be accepted with quick relief. But, on the other hand, we may come out with such detestation of everything that Germany has stood for that we shall refuse to admit her to any society of nations, least of all one in which we are a relatively unarmed member.

But the point is that, whatever the answer is to be, we shall make it at the right time and place more intelligently if we face up in our thinking to the basic fact that freedom from international fear will require more than a striking phrase, more even than a passionate longing and belief. It will require some international machinery, the blue-prints of which will demand the best brains of every nation.

But governments may be restrained from war not only by force from without but by pressure from within. As Field Marshal Smuts has said, "The individual is basic to any world order that is worth while." If the individual, as in the past generation, neglects politics - except as a means of obtaining some selfish end - then the people will at times of crisis be dumb and impotent, and despotic rulers will make war.

I cannot elaborate this theme at present, but if you reflect upon it you will see that it adds the third and vital element to our analysis. We have seen two of them: a passionate longing for peace, and an international machinery for peace. The third is the motive power for the machine: that intelligent citizenship among ordinary men and women which rulers will respect and which will be the greatest enemy of war.

17 July, 1942