AT the time of writing it looks as though the Communists had perfected a new technique in using international conferences as another valuable weapon in the cold war.
But if the Geneva Conference is giving this impression, the responsibility is by no means that of the Russian and Chinese Communists alone. The contrast between Berlin and Geneva is very marked and very interesting. Where Europe is concerned, the Western Powers stood on firm ground and presented a united front. Despite international socialist efforts to wreck the heart of European unity by opposing E.D.C., Eden, Dulles and Bidault possessed mandates strong enough to leave no crack for Molotov to start working on. On the contrary, our negotiation from strength enabled extremely generous propositions to be made to the Soviet. When these were rejected, we were in no way weakened, but Molotov lost international face and was made to look foolish.
The position is totally different in Asia. There we are not masters of the situation and we possess very little strength. The countries involved, however much some of them may dislike Communism, are also opposed to any Western domination and exploitation. But their lack of political experience and stable order makes them easy victims to Communist guile. Korea has already amply demonstrated the intrinsic limits of even international military action against open aggression, and it is certain that, short of world war, the opening of a fresh international front in Indo-China cannot have better results, though it may well have worse.
India might have been the one country on the basis of which democracy could have established a strong military bastion for a South-Eastern "N.A.T.O.," but under Nehru India has chosen the path of peace through conciliation alone. It remains to be seen whether Nehru, the Asian democrat, can secure a modus vivendi with the Soviet-inspired Asian Communists on the basis of the traditional Indian pacifism. Certainly, no one outside India can entertain any very sanguine hopes of long-term success along this line.
* * C UCH are the essential facts: 1-3 either world war or a position whose intrinsic political and military weakness is such that it cannot be viewed as one which, by itself, allows, as in Berlin, negotiation through strength.
On the other hand, there is every reason to suppose that neither Russia nor China are prepared to press the issue to the point of the danger of a third world war. The story of Korea has once again proved that. Their policy is to move slowly by fomenting revolution and dissatisfaction and avoiding, if possible, open military action.
In order to continue to make progress along this line, the one thing they really need is misunderstanding and division within their enemy's camp. When they see Britain, America and France unsure of their common aim and indulging in mutual recriminations, their line of policy is clear. It is to further that disunity and take every local advantage of the uncertainty thus created.And in those conditions nothing can suit their purpose better than an international conference, especially one so ill-prepared for in Washington, London and Paris.
The war against the Vict-Minh has proved to be a disaster because of the international failure to realise its importance for the whole free world until too late, and nothing could have been more tragically ironic than the magnificent French resistance at DienBien-Phu to so little purpose in strengthening freedom's front for which the soldiers fought.
XT OW there can really be only -1 one policy to save SouthEast Asia, including Malaya, from a gradual breakdown in the face of Communist tactics.
It is absolute unity of outlook and action between Britain, America and France on a defensive plan sufficiently strongly backed in military terms to deter the Communists from adventures on the scale that threatens world war, or at least threatens to disrupt Communist plans for industrialising China and evolving a freer and more constructive regime in Russia.
Whether it takes the form of a South-East Asia "N.A.T.O." and where and when the present war can be brought to an end is a secondary consideration in relation to the establishment of this limited but solid defence.
Not less important is it in the long run that Europe should seal its own defensive unity through the binding of Western Germany with Europe through the early ratification of E.D.C.
Thus the free world will be defended on a forward front which may or may not finally hold and a rear front that is impregnable.
Let us be sure that Geneva is closely bound with Berlin and Europe. Only in the West can Communism be successfully and finally resisted; and because of this only from the West can the Communists be deterred from undertaking anywhere military and political adventures that could lead to
world war. •
That is why socialist attempts to prevent Western Germany from carrying through Adenauer's policy are so dangerous.
We agree with many Socialists to the effect that the only constructive hope is in negotiation with Communists so that in a period of peace the world can digest the immense changes of the last years, and, so to speak, find new feet with which to move forward to a stability which we cannot yet envisage. But the hope of this lies only on the basis of a strong and fearless unified plan, resting on military and political strength in the West and realistically attempting the presently possible, rather than the remotely ideal, in the hazardous conditions of East and South-East Asia.
Adenauer and our own Prime Minister probably see more clearly than any other statesman today the line of policy in which there is most hope for the world. The two dangers lie in thinking either in military terms alone or in political terms alone. The first can only lead to war in the end; the second to Communist success. We need both together all the strength we can muster and every possible readiness to negotiate in terms of that strength.