As I Please
Tribune, 13 December 1946
When one reads the reports of U.N.O.
conferences, or international negotiations of any kind, it is difficult not to be reminded
of lAttaque and similar war games that children used to play, with cardboard
pieces representing battleships, aeroplanes and so forth, each of which had a fixed value
and could be countered in some recognized way. In fact, one might almost invent a new game
called Uno, to be played in enlightened homes where the parents do not want their children
to grow up with a militaristic outlook.
The pieces in this game are called the proposal, the démarche,
the formula, the stumbling-block, the stalemate, the deadlock, the bottle-neck and the
vicious circle. The object of the game is to arrive at a formula, and though details vary,
the general outline of play is always much the same. First the players assemble, and
somebody leads off with the proposal. This is countered by the stumbling-block, without
which the game could not develop. The stumbling-block then changes into a bottle-neck, or
more often into a deadlock or a vicious circle. A deadlock and a vicious circle occurring
simultaneously produce a stalemate, which may last for weeks. Then suddenly someone plays
the démarche. The démarche makes it possible to produce a formula, and
once the formula has been found the players can go home, leaving everything as it was at
At the moment of writing, the front page of my morning paper has
broken out into a pink rash of optimism. It seems that everything is going to be all right
after all. The Russians will agree to inspection of armaments, and the Americans will
internationalize the atomic bomb. On another page of the same paper are reports of events
in Greece which amount to a state of war between the two groups of powers who are being so
chummy in New York.
But while the game of deadlocks and bottle-necks goes on, another
more serious game is also being played. It is governed by two axioms. One is that there
can be no peace without a general surrender of sovereignty: the other is that no country
capable of defending its sovereignty ever surrenders it. If one keeps these axioms in mind
one can generally see the relevant facts in international affairs through the smoke-screen
with which the newspapers surround them. At the moment the main facts are:
Russians, whatever they may say, will not agree to genuine inspection of their territories
by foreign observers.
2. The Americans, whatever they may
say, will not let slip the technological lead in armaments.
3. No country is now in a condition to fight an all-out major
These, although they may be
superseded later, are at present the real counters in the real game, and one gets nearer
the truth by constantly remembereing them than alternately rejoicing and despairing over
the day-to-day humbug of conferences.