GIVEN the generally accepted view that President-elcct Kennedy, with a Democratic Congress behind bim, will begin something of a New Deal in America, it becomes all the more imperative to ensure that the international policy of Britain and Europe should balance with America's.
To judge from his election campaign, Mr. Kennedy will seek to combine three lines of policy. He will strengthen America's defensive armaments. He will be more ready than his predecessor to come to fair terms with Soviet Russia and even Communist China. And he will try to divert more of American wealth, first, for the general good of the American people as a whole, through needed welfare schemes, and, second, to the underdeveloped countries of the world.
THIS is an expensive programme. Many Americans have been traditionally reluctant to believe that the use of a high proportion of a nation's wealth for social and welfare schemes can pay its way. We in Britain know better. Britain and the rest of Europe have profited greatly since the war by undertaking welfare and social services for the good of the whole population, and though this has led to a good deal of inflation, which has diminished the benefit accruing to the population generally, expansion of industry and new techniques as well as increasing experience in controlling inflation have enabled us to maintain, on balance, an unprecedentedly high standard of life. Meanwhile the markets of the world in Africa and Asia offer the opportunity of vast expansion of the export trade on which all Europe, but Britain in particular, so greatly depend.
If the new President of the United States gives a decisive lead in furthering this process of increasing production, exchange, and world-wide distribution, we should all be able to look forward in the sixties to a free world capable of resisting the Communist challenge because it can raise the standard of mankind everywhere while at the same time maintaining the essential human freedoms denied by the Communist ideology.
BUT there is one great menace which still hangs over us all: the danger of nuclear world war by accident rather than by intention. It is here, it seems to us, that Britain and Europe should take a different line from America. The vast majority of people certainly feel that it would be highly dangerous for America to diminish or give up its nuclear weapons unless Russia does the same through a foolproof disarmament plan. But do nuclear weapons in other countries add anything to the Western nuclear deterrent and can their immense cost be afforded when the money could be so much more advantageously used in raising the standard of living throughout the non-Communist world? In the light of all this, the present split within the Labour Party is a strange and peculiarly unfortunate phenomenon. We are not here concerned with the long-standing differences between those who lean more to the Left and those who lean more to the Right. The question whether this country should have nuclear arms cuts across these differences, and it is difficult to see why Mr. Gaitskell (who can hardly form a Government for the next four years at least) should make this vehement stand for nuclear armament.
It would inevitably be an ineffective armament; it costs vast sums of money better spent in constructive directions; it could increase the danger of war by error; it is against the wishes of an increasing number of the ordinary people. The only possible excuse is the belief that somehow possession of the intrinsically useless bomb will afford Britain more international "say." It is hard to see why—and even if it were so, our commitments to America are now so far-reaching that an independent stand could hardly be effective or profitable to anyone, including ourselves. Surely we wish to attach ourselves to our great ally in the way that is most useful to both of us and to the free world generally. Can our nuclear armament be of any real value? Does not the policy of maintaining it hark back to strategical and international considerations of the distant past, and in so doing increase the danger of the kind of wars which in those days were endemic?
We may add, as a final observation, that the increasing number of people who believe that the nuclear armament of this country is unnecessary and/or wrong should beware of those who advocate civil disobedience as a way of furthering their cause. Civil disobedience can be an excellent substitute for war, but this is hardly a recommedation for its use to lessen the dangers of war. In present circumstances civil disobedience could only lessen the number of those who believe that the majority of the people can be peacefully persuaded to see the foolishness and danger of nuclear armaments in Britain.