POLITICS JULY 26, 1948
Policy, Not Tactics, Needed in Berlin
The real issue of the Berlin crisis has now become clear. It is implicit in the last paragraph of the Soviet answer to the US protest note:
While not objecting to negotiations, the Soviet government, however, deems it necessary to declare it cannot link the start of these negotiations with the fulfilment of any preliminary conditions, and, secondly, that quadripartite negotiations could be effective only if they were not confined to the question of the administration of Berlin, since this question cannot be separated from the general question of quadripartite control in relation to Germany.
Translated from the jargon of diplomacy, this means that the Soviets will not give up their blackmail power (the blockade of Berlin) until the Western Allies have agreed to pay (given their consent to four-power discussions of the whole German question). And translated into the language of military power politics, it means two things:
1. The Soviets would like to force the Westerners out of Berlin in order to consolidate all of eastern Germany, both economically and militarily, as a permanent threat to the existence of the western German state which Washington and London are in process of creating.
2. Even more important, the Soviets would like to use four-power talks as a means of getting a voice in the control of the Ruhr.
Under ordinary circumstances, the paragraph of the Soviet note might have been read as a bid for a simple diplomatic deal. That is, the Soviets would give up their blackmail as soon as the price was paid. But the present circumstances are not ordinary. There is every reason to believe that Washington and London are prepared not to make a deal, even if their refusal means risking an “incident” in Berlin that might have the gravest consequences.
The reason for this refusal has been clear since at least last January, when Secretary Marshall told a gathering of Pittsburgh businessmen that the US must either see European recovery through or quit. The real issue, therefore, is whether the US will stick to its policy or quit. On the economic side, European recovery depends on the success of ECA. ECA cannot be fully successful unless western Germany revives, and this, in turn, means the development and use of the resources of the Ruhr for all of Europe.
There is, however, another side to the picture. That is the military. Europe cannot recover without security against the East. There is good ground for believing that Washington and London balk at four-power talks on the “general question of quadripartite control in relation to Germany” for exactly the reasons that make them desirable to Moscow. It begins to look, from the military power-politics viewpoint, as if we were stalling for time and taking the Berlin risks in the hope of hanging on long enough to consolidate Western control of the Ruhr, both economic and military.
It is a dangerous game, but it may be the only possible one. Indeed, it may be necessary to keep the Soviets from getting a part in the control of the Ruhr, not only because we need to consolidate western Germany economically but because we need to build it up as a military bulwark against a possible Soviet advance on Western Europe.
Nevertheless, the time has come to stop diplomatic double-talk which confuses the American people but not the Europeans. Precisely because the Berlin situation contains the danger of an “incident,” the American people have the right to a clear restatement of how our Berlin policy fits in with our German and general European policy.
The Soviets have forced usinto the position of playing a dangerous game of military power politics against them. For those many Americans who feel that w e are meeting immorality with immorality, we should define again the large moral issues, set forth the stakes, and make clear what we intend to do to play for them. On the military side, while avoiding a direct guarantee of Western Europe, we have openly moved toward a position in a pattern of bilateral or even multilateral pacts. On the moral and political issues, where hypocrisy can hurt us most, we should be even more frank.
Western Europeans also have the right to a full and frank restatement of our policies. The absence of clarity on our part is hurting their confidence in us and our moral intentions. And it would be the Western Europeans, not our own people, who would suffer most from the consequences of a possible “incident” in Berlin.
Already delay is having a bad effect in France, and not only because French nerves fray more quickly than American in a war of nerves. If US policy were to lead the Soviets to attack, the French would bear the brunt of the impact. All along, the French have been more cool than the Americans and the British to the creation of a strong western Germany. Their historical experience gives them the right to fear German industrial and military power. It has not been for lovw of communism that successive French governments have shown a willingness to allow the Soviets a voice in the control of the Ruhr.
The recent conduct of Lieutenant General Joseph-Pierre Koenig, the governor of the French zone of occupation, is illuminating. He is an ardent supporter of General Charles de Gaulle; and it has appeared that he might be trying to use the Schuman government’s consent to joint Western steps on Germany as a means of helping the Gaullist cause in France. Further delay in Washington’s declaring itself clearly might bring de Gaulle to power in Paris. And with de Gaulle we might have something like the problem that Moscow has with Tito.
Mufti of Madrid
Assad Salame, Lebanese Chargé d’Affaires in Madrid, has conferred his country’s Order of Merit on Generalissimo Francisco Franco. Spain, he said, was a “potentially close friend of the Arab states.” The decoration was granted, he explained, because “Spain and the Arab world are the only bulwark against communism.”
The Generalissimo accepted the decoration with thanks, adding it to his large collection, which includes medals given him by Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo when Spain and the Fascist world were the only bulwark against communism.
Greek Generals Prefer Politics
ATHENS (NR correspondent)
The Greek army’s first major offensive against the northern guerrillas since the Truman Doctrine was proclaimed has run into a snag. Three weeks after the attack was launched, the army was still trying to capture positions it was to have seized in a “lightning victory.” There is much talk of “superior bandit defenses.” Some even say that Markos Vafiades may hold his base on Mount Grammos until autumn rains and snows make it impregnable to attack.
Having placed too much faith in the effect of American starch on the Greek army, the US Military Advisory Group is now trying to figure out what has gone wrong. One conclusion is that Greek Military Intelligence blundered badly in estimating the strength of Markos’ positions. Another is that Greek staff work lagged behind the performance of the common soldier. A third is that neither officers nor men have their hearts in the offensive. A fourth is that officers in the field refuse to commit their units to any costly action.
And last, blame is put on the fact that the Athens press “leaked” some of the General Staff's most precious secrets before the offensive was launched. The culprits were retired high army officers who had turned journalist to make an extra drachma. A secret cabinet meeting was called to consider their misdeeds, but no action has been taken. No one in Athens, of course, gives credit to the generalship of Markos and the courage of his men.
While the campaign drags on, the political pot boils. Assuming a quick victory, politicians have been preparing a change of cabinet. The Liberal bosses behind 87-year-old Premier Themistocles Sophoulis have been installing their men in key local posts. On the other hand, Populist (extreme Right) Deputy Premier Constantine Tsaldaris, the real boss of the cabinet, has been mending fences on a tour of the north.
Moreover, newspapers report that General Nicholas Plastiras, whom Winston Churchill put in the Premier’s seat in 1945, after the sanguinary Leftist revolution, is again hankering for power. Most observers believe that the Royalist Army command would not tolerate this old republican as a non-party premier.
Small, thin, wily General Alexander Papagos, the King's military aid, is said to want the premiership himself. As a close friend of the late dictator, John Metaxas, and as the man who defeated the Italians in 1940, he stands high with the Nationalists. One Greek officer told me, “When Metaxas was in power, in the late thirties, Greece had peace and a strong army. Papagos looks like another Metaxas.”
There is some talk that the US Mission would not tolerate a military dictator, but the Greek politicians who support the ambitions of Papagos are not worried. They recall that Metaxas was first voted into power by a parliament frightened by communism.
Cudahy Case is Closed
MINNEAPOLIS (NR correspondent)
Having been beaten on the picket line, the United Packinghouse Workers have now been told off in court. Thirty-nine of the men who took part in the long strike against the Cudahy Packing Company at Newport, Minnesota, last spring, were convicted of unlawful assembly by a Stillwater, Minnesota, court.
All have lost their jobs—some of them after as long as 23 years with the packing company. Seven were sentenced to jail for three months and the rest were ordered to pay $100 fines and $2.50 court costs. The unlawful-assembly charge—reduced from a charge of rioting which could have meant five years in prison—was made after the strikers broke into the plant and dragged out some scabs.
The trial of the 39 involved the greatest number of defendants tried at one time in Minnesota history since the Sioux uprising of 1862. Thirty-nine Indians felt the hand of justice in that case. Thirty-eight were hanged.
This article originally ran in the July 26, 1948, issue of the magazine.