FEW Prime Ministers have come into office at a more difficult moment than Mr. Harold Macmillan. Obviously, Sir Winston Churchill faced infinitely greater dangers and problems in 1940, but the conditions of war at least enabled him not only to take necessary measures but to ensure that they would be carried out with the support of the whole country and the approval of the greater part of the world. The conditions of today present Heads of Governments with all the disadvantages and divisions, national and international, of peace, while the issues at stake are hardly less dangerous in their consequences than war itself — and indeed, if mishandled, may lead to a situation from which a war could scarcely be avoided.
Today there is no country more perilously situated than our own. We incur the responsibilities and dangers of a world Power while now only possessing the resources and the political weight of a relatively small Power. The Suez adventure. for better or for worse, sprang from this contradictory position, and neither its defenders nor its opponents have been able to make a decisive case because of the strange position we are in.
The size of our population and its extremely high standard of living within a very small island, lacking great natural wealth of its own, forces us to depend on immensely wide commercial and financial commitments which in their turn still demand some degree of political influence across the globe, whether' through the Commonwealth, our colonies or the less official kind of influence we have hitherto possessed in the Middle East. Yet, we no longer possess the physical, financial and political means of maintaining this position.
And it becomes more evident every year that passes that we live on a razor's edge. We survive, as it were, for the morrow, and hope for the best as regards a more distant future.
THE realisation, at last, that this is an impossible position is the most necessary thing for this country today. The Suez intervention should at least have proved that we can no longer protect our commitments on our own or follow a policy solely of our own making.
In terms of a nationalistic philosophy and background, this is a very bitter pill to swallow for a country whose traditions and memories are those of one of the greatest countries of history. But in terms of a saner and, we may add, of a far more Christian outlook, we should be able to see the position as one that is far more enlightened.
Today, as we see it, there are two great constructive groupings in the world. There is the unity militarily represented by NATO, a unity that has emerged in defence against the threat of materialistic and totalitarian Communism. Behind this there is a subtler grouping—the grouping whose spiritual centre is still a Europe that includes Britain. This grouping, which extends outwards to America and the Commonwealth, represents, however imperfectly, the political, cultural and social experience which derived from the long years of Christendom's story.
This tradition and experience we believe still to be the greatest political asset of the world. It is true that we have come to know of competing Eastern outlooks. It is true, too, that the tradition of Christendom fell far short of the religion which inspired it and finally accepted the disastrous division between the moral teaching of religion and the right of State and individual to live in terms of
political and economic " necessities ".
But in the East it is a degenerate interpretation of Western tradition which today is its driving force, while the Western Christian tradition, for all its weaknesses, still retains and, at its best, tries to live by a Christian memory of the primacy of the natural law and the intrinsic dignity of man. It is because of this moral sense in the background that Europe and those parts of the world whose culture has sprung from Europe still offer the world's only political hope.
BRITAIN, in her present necessity, has both the opportunity and the insistent need to take the initiative in linking itself politically and economically with Europe. This cultural unity at the centre of the wide heritage of Christendom would afford a precious and indispensible asset to the wider anti-Communist grouping that should be represented by NATO in political and economic, as well as in defensive military, terms.
Development along these lines would not only enormously strengthen the influence of the truly free countries of the world; it would not only restore to countries like Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Spain the means of maintaining and increasing their standards of living, while no longer pretending that they are "great" Powers in the old sense; it would remove that sense of fear which today lies at the back of most of our international mistakes.
How clear, for example, it is today that the Middle East trouble will be solved, not in terms of intervention or exploiting so-called power vacuums, but in terms of the honest recognition of the natural rights of the countries of the Middle East. Once this recognition is fairly made, then genuine cooperation can be started in the true interest of both sides and the world generally. But so long as we treat a Nasser as the millionaire or the snob treats the unwanted upstart, we cannot possibly hope to achieve real co-operation. We believe that only if a British Government can cut itself away from the fallacies of a past that is dead and gone and begin to think in terms of wider, more imaginative policies for a very different future can there be any hope for the survival of the influence and indeed the sufficient means of livelihood of this country and its people.