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Will The Middle East Go West?
By Freda Utley
PREFACE & CHAPTER 1 and Chapter 6 (with Kennedy quote on imperialism)
I visited the Middle East for the first time in December 1956, on the last lap of a seven-months tour of the Far East, Southeast Asia and India. I therefore cannot claim any such expert knowledge of the Middle East as I have gained of the Far East during three decades of study and writing on that area. But the problems of the Arab world today, and the challenge they present to Western statesmanship, are so similar to those we failed to meet in China that I have felt impelled to write this book.
My journey itself, symbolizing as it did a shift in the locus of world crisis, drew my attention from the Far to the Middle East. I was in Formosa when Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal; in Japan and Korea, Hong Kong, Vietnam and Singapore in August and September; in Thailand and Burma during the first half of October; and in New Delhi when Britain, France and Israel launched their attack on Egypt and while Soviet Russia was drowning the Hungarian people’s revolution in blood.
After six weeks in India, I spent two weeks in Pakistan and Iran before flying to Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt. In Asia I witnessed at first hand the reactions of friends, enemies and neutrals to America’s principled stand on the Suez crisis and, in sharp contrast, their reaction to Pandit Nehru’s failure even to speak out unequivocally against Soviet imperialism in Hungary.
Noting and chronicling these reactions, I had no doubt that Vice-President Nixon was right when he said, “history will give eternal credit to our President and the Secretary of State for choosing the hard road of principle.” Nor could I doubt, even without waiting for history to pronounce judgment, that Eisenhower’s politically courageous and principled stand on Suez had won millions of friends for America in Asia and Africa. Indeed, I had high hopes that the President’s action marked the initiation of a policy that would turn the tide in our favor against the Moscow-Peking axis in the East, both Far and Near.
The effect in India was electrical. The leading newspapers, normally subservient to Nehru and therefore anti-American, changed their tune. Nehru was criticized for his failure to utter any outright condemnation of Russia’s bloody suppression of the Hungarian people’s revolution, while the United States was warmly praised for protecting Egypt against America’s closest allies. The old argument which has kept even Nehru’s critics quiet – namely, that Soviet Russia checks and restrains “Western imperialism” – no longer seemed to justify Nehru’s friendliness toward Moscow and Peking, now that the greatest power in the West was stopping Anglo-French-Israeli aggression against Egypt.
In Pakistan hopes were aroused that America might take a similar principled stand on Kashmir. And when I came to the Middle East, where I spent the month of December, it was wonderful to be able to say, “I am an American,” at a moment when decades of distrust of the West among the Arab peoples were being dissipated by evidence that the United States stands for justice and freedom from aggression for all men, irrespective of nation, race or creed.
There was no doubt that America’s prestige and influence had been enhanced in Asia and Africa, and even in most European countries; for it is a grave mistake to assume that France and England alone count in the formation of “European” opinion. West Germany, Italy, Greece and Spain welcomed Eisenhower’s stand on Suez. The Scandinavian countries, to judge from the conversations I had with Swedish and Danish journalists and officers in Cairo and in the bomb-devastated city of Port Said, were on our side. Canada had stood with us in the United Nations, and even in England we perhaps made more friends than enemies, for many Englishmen opposed Eden’s rash, stupid and unprincipled attack on Egypt.
Yet, following my flight back to the United States at the years end, I was appalled, if not surprised, to find that most American newspapers, columnists and commentators appeared not to know the score. Toward the realities of the dangerous situation in the Middle East they were displaying the same sort of ignorance, indifference or prejudice that most of them had formerly shown concerning China, when they believed that the Communists there were liberal “agrarian reformers.”
In India I had been outraged at Nehru’s reluctance to take a stand against Russia’s attack on Hungary. In America I was shocked to find that many of my former friends and associates, beside whom I have long fought the good fight against the worldwide threat of Communist imperialism, were as myopic in one eye as Nehru in the other.
Yesterday, “liberals” paved the way for the Communist conquest of China, either by their ignorance or their sneaking sympathy for Moscow’s Chinese puppets. Today, conservatives and old guard Republicans have taken the lead in advocating a policy on the Middle East as misconceived and misinformed as the policy of President Truman, General Marshall and Dean Acheson on China.
The overwhelming vote given to President Eisenhower last November shows that the American people have more sense than either liberal or conservative Eggheads. But when the magazines and newspapers of the United States fail to present both sides fully and fairly, the good sense of the American public cannot exert itself against the powerful propaganda of interested foreign pressure groups and their American supporters.
Yesterday, in the case of China, lack of knowledge of the facts, and the powerful influence of the Chinese Communist lobby and its dupes in Washington and the American press, caused our failure to support the Chinese Nationalist Government in its desperate struggle against the Chinese Communist forces armed by Moscow and under her orders. Today, there is a clear and present danger that we shall also unwittingly help the Communists to power in the Middle East – thanks to even more powerful lobbies and to our lack of understanding of the situation, and because the Communists are adept at playing both sides of the street in order to divide and rule. As Mr. Nixon said on May 23, 1957, on his return from his African tour, the Soviet Union and Communist China regard Africa and the Middle East today “as important a target as China was to them 20 years ago – if they can win a substantial number of the uncommitted nations to their Communist side they will gain the balance of power and people and resources in the world which will enable them to bring the free nations to their knees without the necessity of fighting a war.”
The problem is how to prevent their doing so. It cannot be done by armaments and economic aid alone. Vital as these are for the defense of the free world, neither can win friends and influence people who have been lost or alienated by political injury. But Communism can be stopped by adherence to American principles which require that we seek to do justice to all and bear malice to none. In seeking to formulate a policy consonant with our traditions and ideals we must however beware both of “reactionaries” who cannot or will not see the underdog’s point of view; and of “liberals” who are often confused as to which dog is which.
I do not presume to know all the answers, or to make any but tentative suggestions as to what American policy should be toward the Middle East, with its tangled legacy of broken pledges, old wrongs, injustices, fears, resentment and distrust. I can only hope that the background information which this book supplies may help to build a wise United States policy, serving the interests of both America and the free world, as well as of those aspiring to be free.
CHAPTER 1—–THE ARAB-CHINA PARALLEL
In 1923 Sun Yat Sen turned to Soviet Russia for help in the liberation and unification of China, because the Western Powers and Japan refused to relinquish the imperialist privileges and powers which kept China impotent, divided and desperately poor. Thus he unwittingly opened the door to Communist infiltration, subversion and armed attack which a quarter of a century later delivered China over to Communist slavery and converted her into Moscow’s most subservient and powerful satellite.
Today, the Arab world in danger of following the same road to perdition. Once again the West is denying the legitimate national aspirations of a people with an ancient civilization – fallen behind in the march of technological, economic and political progress, and humiliated by past or present subjection to alien rule; but proud of their cultural heritage, longing for strength through unity and progress through reform, and seeking to free themselves from their colonial status, or from fear of renewed aggression and subjugation. In the Arab world, as in China three decades ago, the Western Powers have pursued policies calculated to impel the leaders of the people to call upon Moscow to redress the balance in their favor against old and new imperialisms which seek to retain, regain or win privileges and powers.
Thanks to America’s stand on Suez, the disastrous consequences to the Arabs and to the West of any such reliance on the Soviet Power have been at least temporarily averted. But since France and Israel, and to a lesser extent Britain, are today exerting their powerful influence on American opinion to prevent the United States Administration from pursuing an enlightened policy, the danger is by no means past.
History never repeats itself so exactly that its lessons are clear for all to read. Each drama in the continuing record of the “crimes, follies and cruelties” of mankind differs slightly, as the scene shifts, new actors play the leading roles, and the sympathies and judgment of the audience respond to personal and national prejudices, passions, interests and experience. Hence the truth of the cynical observation that the only lesson which history teaches is that mankind learns nothing from it.
Yet there is so close a similarity between the situation in the Arab world today and that of China yesterday that if the West is able to perceive the parallel, we may avoid repeating the errors of judgment and policy which only a few years ago lost almost half a continent to the Communists.
The tragic drama of modern China was long drawn out, and there were times when, as today in the Middle East, temporary periods of enlightened Western statesmanship promised a happier ending. The prologue to the tragedy, played out from 1920 to 1949, when she finally succumbed to the Communists, was similar to that of the Arab drama we are now witnessing, in which America and Russia are both vying for the role of the deus ex machina.
In the case of both Chinese and Arabs aggressive Western imperialism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries followed centuries of subjection to Asiatic conquerors who had caused economic decline and sapped the spirit of the people without destroying their ancient culture and pride of race. In both cases, resentment and suspicion of the West, even after freedom or partial freedom had been won, remained to produce extreme sensitivity concerning human dignity and rights. But, in both, the reaction to the impact of the West was positive as well as negative, since it opened wider horizons and the desire to progress into the modern world through reform or revolution.
China, conquered by the Manchus in the seventeenth century, was still ruled by their degenerate and feeble dynasty in Peking during the nineteenth century, when the Great Powers gradually converted her into what Sun Yat Sen called a “sub-colony” – meaning that while all the Great Powers enjoyed extra-territorial rights and other privileges on China’s soil, none of them was obligated to defend her.
Beginning with the First Opium War in 1839, first England and France, then Russia, then Germany and Japan almost tore China to pieces. Territory was seized from her. Colonial areas called “concessions” were established on Chinese soil at Shanghai and in other so-called Treaty Ports. China had to agree to foreigners being exempted from Chinese law and from Chinese taxation (extra-territoriality). Foreign gunboats had the freedom of her rivers and her coasts. Foreign soldiers guarded their nationals even in the capital city of Peking. Foreigners controlled her customs in order to collect the interest due on money borrowed from abroad to pay the “indemnities” imposed on her for being militarily too weak to resist aggression. Increase of tariffs by her government, to protect industries or increase revenues, was forbidden. The ports occupied by the Powers as “leased territory,” together with the land close to the railroads which were constructed in the second half of the century, became foreign territory from which China could be attacked if she resisted any demands made on her, and from which the Powers could make war upon one another on Chinese soil. Each concession wrested from her by one Power was at once demanded by the others. The United States, although refraining from armed aggression, insisted under the “most favored nation” clause of her treaties with China that all privileges obtained by others should also be enjoyed by Americans.
Russia, like the United States, did not attack China directly. Instead she acquired huge sparsely inhabited Chinese territories to the north by posing as China’s friend. Anticipating the policy of the Soviets, the Czar in 1858 came forward as China’s protector, and as his reward for acting as mediator between the Manchu Emperor and the Western Powers, which had already twice defeated China, obtained formal possession from the Chinese Emperor not only of the territories north of the Amur but also of the seacoast as far as Korea and inland to the Ussuri River. At the end of the century the building of the Trans-Siberian railway freed Russia from the domination of British sea power and made her the only Great Power able to exert military pressure directly on China. In 1894 a formal Russo-Chinese treaty of allegiance gave Russia the right to use all Chinese ports in time of war, and soon thereafter she acquired a “lease” of Port Arthur – all, of course, ostensibly for China’s “protection.”
When the Chinese people in the Boxer Rebellion of 1900 revolted blindly against the intolerable poverty and misery of their existence, they were suppressed by the armed forces of all the Great Powers, in a joint action which culminated in the sack of Peking by British, French, German, Russian and American troops. In the settlement that followed, the Powers signed the 1901 “Boxer Protocol” which established international control over China. In the minds of Britain and the United States, however, the Protocol was not sufficient protection against the threat of Russian domination of China; and the two English-speaking Powers proceeded to build up Japan and subsequently back her in the Russo-Japanese War. Further to prevent the exclusive exploitation of China by any one Power, the United States with British support obtained general agreement on the “Open Door” policy – which, though it later served as the basis for American protection of China against Japan, was basically designed to guarantee the Great Powers freedom of commercial competition in the whole of China.
Thus, before the outbreak of World War I, China was tied hand and foot by the Powers and prevented either from thrusting them out or from building herself up into a strong State. While rivalries of the Great Powers had kept her from being divided up among them into colonies or protectorates, she had become in effect an international semi- or sub-colony of them all.
The Arab world, about which so much less is known in America than about China, had similar experiences leading to much the same results. The Arabs, like the Chinese, were conquered by Mongol hordes in the thirteenth century; but while Kublai Khan fostered and re-invigorated China’s ancient civilization, the Mongols all but destroyed the economic life and flourishing Arab culture of the lands they occupied – notably Mesopotamia (now known as Iraq), where civilization had begun in Babylon thousands of years before and which was then the heart of the Arab world. Egypt and Syria, which then comprised Lebanon and Palestine, escaped the Mongol devastations, but three centuries later came under the dominion of the Ottoman Turks together with Iraq, during the same era which saw the Manchu dynasty in Peking, were unable to defend the people the had subjected from the Western imperialist onslaught. England established her dominion over Egypt, and France hers over Morocco and Algeria, during the same century that China was being converted into a “sub-colony” of the Western Powers. And when, during World War I, the Arabs of the Fertile Crescent won their liberation from Turkey by fighting for England and France, they found they had merely exchanged Turkish for British or French overlords in Iraq, Palestine, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.
The Arabian Peninsula, consisting largely of desert inhabited by Bedouins, remained independent except for some small British enclaves such as Aden. But the Arab lands under Turkish rule came under British or French direct, or indirect, domination before or after World War I. In China, the Westerners had acquired special privileges and powers extorted by force from the powerless Manchu Government in Peking. In the Middle East and North Africa, Britain and France either ruled through puppet sultans and kings, or, as in the case of Egypt, prior to the 1914 war, were well content to let the Turks incur the unpopularity of the maintenance of their Empire, while the British and French themselves were insulated by their extra-territorial rights and privileges from the disadvantages of corrupt and oppressive Ottoman rule.
The 1914 war constituted a turning point. Up to then, contact with the West, although it meant exploitation and subjection, also had the beneficial result of rousing China and the Arab world from the torpor of centuries. Acquaintance with Western science and techniques awakened them to the need for change and progress in order to defend themselves. Knowledge of Western political ideas and institutions stimulated the desire for liberty. National movements were born in reaction to the humiliation of defeat and subjection to the Western Powers, but at the same time were inspired by Western ideas and principles.
World War I was the great opportunity missed by the West to bring China and the Arab world into our orbit by enabling their peoples to progress under Western influence but free from Western domination.
In both China and the Arab world Wilson’s Fourteen Points caused among the intellectual and political leaders of the nationalist movements an upsurge of hope and faith in Western ideals and aims; and the reaction which followed their non-observance at the Paris Peace Conference created similar resentment and disillusionment. In China, the failure of the West to follow its own stated ideals led to the alliance between the Kuomintang and Soviet Russia which was cemented in 1923. In the Arab world it left a legacy of distrust of all Western professions and promises, the result of which, and of the subsequent injuries inflicted upon the Arabs by Britain, France and the United States, are only now fully apparent.
The Arabs during and after World War I were given far greater and more specific cause than the Chinese to distrust western promises. They had entered the war only after receiving written pledges from England that by fighting on her side they would win freedom and independence for the Arab world within its historic boundaries. Their concerted revolt against Turkey in June 1916 came at a time when, thanks to Churchill’s ill-fated Dardanelles adventure and the victories of the Central Powers in Europe, British and French fortunes were at their lowest ebb.
The Arab entry into the war, without which Turkey and her German allies might not have been defeated, had been preceded by lengthy negotiations starting in October 1914 when Lord Kitchener, as Minister for War, sent a message on October 31, 1914, to Shareef Husein of Mecca pledging British support to the Arabs in their struggle for freedom if they would enter the war on Britain’s side. At first England had tried not to commit herself to any specific pledges. Finally in 1916, on account of her desperate need of Arab aid, she had agreed to the terms set forth in a document known as the Damascus Protocol which was formulated in July 1915 by leading representatives of the Arab countries assembled in the Syrian capital. These terms included:
(1) The recognition by Great Britain of the independence of the Arab countries in Asia, with the exception of the British colony of Aden.
(2) The abolition of all exceptional privileges granted to foreigners under the “capitulations”
(similar to the “extra-territorial” rights in China).
(3) The conclusion of a defensive alliance between Great Britain and the future independent Arab
States, along with the grant of economic preferences to Britain.
These terms had been submitted to Britain by the Shareef Husein, who as a descendant of the Prophet and as Keeper of the Holy Cities of Mecca and Medina in the Hejaz, over which he ruled, had great influence in the whole Moslem world, in addition to his prestige as the spokesman of the Arabs whose alliance was sought by Britain. The Arab demands are clearly set forth in Husein’s correspondence with Sir Henry MacMahon, who as British Commissioner in Egypt negotiated for the British Government. At first, as the letters which passed between them reveal, MacMahon attempted to leave the Arabs with far less than they wished; but when it became clear that nothing less than the provisions of the Damascus Protocol would induce the Arabs to take the risks and endure the sacrifices which a revolt against Turkey entailed, MacMahon gave the pledges required.
Britain, in agreeing to the main demands of the Arabs through her High Commissioner in Egypt, exempted from the terms of the Damascus Protocol certain small areas deemed not purely Arab-Mersina, Alexandrietta and “portions of Syria lying to the west of the districts of Damascus, Homs, Hama and Aleppo”; and she also insisted that the agreement should not be detrimental to French interests. Otherwise, the British Government unequivocally pledged itself “to recognize and support the independence of the Arabs in all the regions within the limits demanded by the Shareef of Mecca.”
Admittedly, by the reservation concerning French interests, the MacMahon correspondence with Husein left the fate of some areas of the Arab world undetermined; but, by any interpretation of the correspondence, the French could claim at most only the northern portions of Lebanon – certainly not all Syria, which they took by force in 1919.
Anyone who reads the documents can have no doubt that the alliance of the Arabs with Britain was clearly based on her acceptance of the Arab demand for freedom and independence within the historic boundaries of the Arab world, extending from the borders of Persia to the Mediterranean and the Red Sea.
The Arabs made a substantial contribution to British victory both militarily and politically. The Arab revolt proclaimed by Husein frustrated a projected German-Turkish expedition to southern Arabia to outflank Aden and block the Red Sea and the Suez Canal to British shipping. The Arabs also contributed no small sh are to Britain’s victory when during General Allenby’s campaign in Palestine the Emir Feisal, third son of Husein, commanding a mixed force of Syrian, Palestinian and Iraqi Arabs fighting east of Jordan, defeated as large an army of Turks as the British were facing on the west side of the river and subsequently liberated Damascus. Southwards, under another of Husein’s sons, the Arabs held another large Turkish force in check. The Arab revolt not only barred the road to the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean and prevented the Turks from reinforcing their forces in the Dardanelles, it also released British troops from the defense of Egypt and led the Egyptians as members of the Arab community to support Britain’s war.
In the words of the American writer, Speiser, in his book The United States and the Middle East, “Unquestionably, the British campaign in the Near East owed much of its ultimate success to Arab aid.” This fact is not denied by British historians and military writers; and the famous Lawrence of Arabia, who fought with his Arab friends in the war against Turkey, bears witness to its truth. Moreover, General Allenby himself stated that Arab help had been “invaluable” in winning the war.
In 1918, first Turkey’s and then Bolshevik Russia’s revelations of the secret agreements between France and England to divide up the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire, as also the Balfour Declaration promising a national home for the Jews in Palestine, caused such dismay and suspicion in the Arab armies that the British Government reiterated its former pledges.
In a communication sent to a meeting of Arab leaders in Cairo in June 1918, Britain publicly confirmed her earlier promises in more comprehensive and plainer terms than in the unpublished MacMahon-Husein correspondence, and without the former ambiguously worded reservations concerning French interests in Syria. In plain terms it stated:
(1) That with regard both to the territories which were free and independent before the War, and those liberated from Turkish rule by the Arabs themselves: “His Majesty’s Government recognise the complete and sovereign independence of Arabs inhabiting those territories and support them in their struggle for freedom.”
(2) That with regard to the territories occupied by the Allied armies (which at that time included the greater part of Iraq, including Basra and Baghdad, and the southern half of Palestine inclusive of Jerusalem and Jaffa), His Majesty’s Government’s policy was “that the future government of those territories should be based on the principle of the consent of the governed.”
(3) That as concerns the Arab lands still under Turkish rule (which included the greater part of Syria and Mosul in Iraq) the British Government desired “that the oppressed peoples in these territories should obtain their freedom and independence.”
Those quotations are taken from the translation made from the Arabic text by George Antonius in The Arab Awakening (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1938). As the author writes in his authoritative book, this British “Dejclaration to the Seven,” as it is usually called, committed Britain to her subsequently dishonored pledges more devisively than the MacMahon letters, since it was made public, and came both after Moscow’s disclosure of the secret Sykes-Picot agreement with France and the Balfour Declaration.
The ambiguity of the Balfour Declaration, designed to enlist Zionist support without upsetting the Arabs, was the cause of all the subsequent trouble. While saying that His Majesty’s Government would use its “best endeavors to facilitate” the “establishment in Palesting of a national home for the Jewish people,” it also stated that it was to be “clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.” The Declaration could not therefore be held to envisage the establishment of a Jewish State in Palestine, and the British sent a special emissary to King Husein assuring him that it held no contradictions to the promises made to the Arabs.
Together with President Wilson’s Fourteen Points, the twelfth of which promised that “nationalities which are now under Turkish rule” should be assured “an absolutely unmolested opportunity of autonomous development,” these false British pledges dispelled Arab doubts and apprehensions, and led them to fight gallantly when General Allenby called upon them to participate in the final and victorious offensive which won the war in the Middle East.
Then came the great betrayal which forfeited the trust which the Arabs had formerly reposed in Britain and made them suspicious of all Western professions and promises. Britain, having won the war with the help of the Arabs, failed to honor her pledged word. Regarding her solemn engagements to the Arabs as scraps of paper worth little account in comparison with her 1916 secret Sykes-Picot agreement with France and her promise to the Zionists in the Balfour Declaration, England established her dominion over Iraq and Palestine, and let France forcibly convert Syria into a colony against the brutally repressed opposition of its inhabitants, under the same false pseudonym of League of Nations “mandated” territories.
Nor was Britain alone guilty of this flagrant breach of faith with the Arabs who had helped her to win the war. The French, it is true, knew nothing of the MacMahon-Husein correspondence, kept secret from them by Britain, who immediately after her pledges of Arab freedom and independence, negotiated her 1916 secret treaty with France to divide up these same Arab territories, thus double-crossing France as well as the Arabs. But the French associated themselves with Britain’s dishonored promises when, in order to prevent a threatening Arab mutiny, a joint Anglo-French communication from their General Headquarters was issued on November 7, 1918, given wide publicity, and posted in all the towns and villages of Palestine, Syria and Iraq. In this proclamation the two Great Powers declared that their joint war aims were: “The complete and definite freeing of the peoples so long oppressed by the Turks, and the establishment of National Governments and Administrations deriving their authority from the initiative and the free choice of the native populations.”
Even while Britain and France were thus acquiring a reputation for duplicity in the Arab world, Bolshevik Russia put on its disguise as the anti-colonialist friend of the oppressed peoples of the Middle East. Tsarist Russia had been a party to the Anglo-French plot to divide up the territories of the Ottoman Empire, although Russia was to have had only non-Arab territories. By publishing the secrets found in the Tsarist archives, by rejecting Russia’s share of the Turkish spoils (which were to have included Constantinople), and by relinquishing the privileges and powers in China acquired by the Tsars, Communist Russia laid the groundwork for her claims to be non-imperialist in her dealings with the peoples of Asia, while Britain and France were left to reap the whirlwind sown by their betrayal of Arab hopes and expectations.
Today, with Moscow winning a strong foothold in the Middle East and assiduously wooing the Arab nationalists, the events of almost forty years ago are of more than historical importance. The betrayal of the pledges given to the Arabs by Britain and France was announced by the Supreme Council of the victorious Allied Powers at its meeting in St. Remo in April 1920. The Arab lands in the rectangle between the Mediterranean and the Persian frontier, instead of being given the freedom promised them, were to be placed under League of Nations “mandates” – a euphemism for Western colonial rule. Syria was to be broken up into three pieces: Palestine under Britain, Lebanon and a reduced Syria under France. Iraq was kept undivided but under a British mandate. The territories which now constitute Saudi Arabia were left free, thanks, no doubt, to the fact that in those days the oil riches of t he Arabian Peninsula were unknown.
Intimations at the Paris Peace Conference that the Allies did not intend to fulfill their promises had impelled those Arab leaders who had drafted the Damascus Protocol in 1915 to organize elections to the first Arab Parliament which met in the Syrian capital in July 1919. This “All Syrian Congress” meeting in Damascus, which was then the heart of the Arab world, demanded an independent Syria within her historic boundaries including Palestine, and voted for the establishment of a constitutional monarchy with the Emir Feisal as king. It repudiated the Zionist claim to Palestine, but proclaimed itself in favor of decentralized rule to safeguard the rights of religious and racial minorities.
A generation later, the London Economist (November 17, 1956) would report that President Eisenhower’s stand on Suez “electrified Asia and won a respect never previously enjoyed” by America. With some chagrin it should be remembered that back in 1919 the Resolutions of the General Syrian Congress closed with an affirmation of faith in “lofty principles proclaimed by President Wilson [which lead us to believe that] the determining consideration in the settlement of our own future will be the real desires of our own people.” Many Arabs then, just as thirty-seven years later, looked to “the liberal American nation, who are known for their sincere and generous sympathy with the aspirations of weak nations, for help in the fulfillment of our hopes.”
The Syrian Congress also reminded the Peace Conference, “We would not have risen against Turkish rule, under which we enjoyed civic and political privileges, as well as rights of representation, had it not been that the Turks denied us our rights to a national existence.”
The famous Lawrence of Arabia seems to have realized all along that Britain intended to break her word; but, evidently conceived it his duty to England to exploit the trust reposed in him by his Arab friends to induce them to go on fighting. As he was to write subsequently in The Seven Pillars of Wisdom:
If we won the war the promises to the Arabs were dead paper. Yet the Arab
inspiration was our main tool in winning the Eastern war. So I assured them
that England kept her word in letter and spirit. In this comfort they
performed their fine things, but, of course, instead of being proud of
what we did together I was continually and bitterly ashamed.
By breaking her pledged word, England forfeited her most priceless possession and started to dig her own grave as a Great Power. Long before her attack on Egypt in 1956, she had forfeited the respect and trust of the Arab world by her cynical double-dealing. As had been often proved before and since, what the Germans call Realpolitik is not realistic, but merely a postponment of the day of reckoning, increasing the price which ultimately has to be paid.
George Antonius did not live long enough to see the consequences in our time of the British betrayal of the Arabs. But, on the eve of World War II, he wrote that if Britain and France had not in 1919 imposed a settlement which violated both the promises specifically made to the Arabs, and the principles enunciated by the Allies as the foundations of the peace:
Thousands of lives, millions of treasure and incalculable moral suffering and damage would have been avoided. The Iraq rising of 1920, the Syrian rebellion of 1925 and the repeated outbreaks in Palestine would not have occurred.
For they were all the direct outcome of the various regimes which were wrongfully and forcibly imposed upon the Arabs in Iraq, Syria and Palestine in violation of the pledges which had brought them into the War. Whatever part subsidiary causes may have played, the underlying cause of all those upheavals, and of a good deal else that has clouded the natural friendliness of Arab to Englishman and Englishman to Arab, is to be sought in the bitterness and the revulsion of feeling which the post-War provisions engendered – and nowhere else. The Arabs felt that they had been betrayed, and betrayed by their best friend.
The appeals and resolutions presented to the Western Powers in 1919 by the Arab Parliament went unheeded by all of them except the United States, which sent the King-Crane Commission to the Middle East to investigate the Arab claims. This commission made recommendations supporting Arab aspirations – which, if they had not been disregarded by Britain and France, would have changed the course of history and prevented Soviet Russia from winning her present influence in the Middle East. Specifically, the King-Crane Commission favored the preservation of the unity of Syria including Palestine, but with autonomy for Lebanon within a Syrian State, spoke against giving any mandate to the French because of their unpopularity, and recommended that any British or United States mandates be limited in time. Moreover, the members of the Commission concluded after much study of the Zionist problem that the Zionists looked forward to a practically complete dispossession of the non-Jewish population, and that the Zionist program could not be carried out except by force and in gross violation of the rights of the Arab inhabitants and President Wilson’s Fourteen Points.
In the Arab world consequences of Western double-dealing are only now becoming apparent, and we still have a chance to retrieve our position. But in China we have already lost out. We lost not simply because of the Truman-Acheson-Marshall policy after World War II, which denied arms aid and political support to our loyal ally, the Nationalist Government of China, unless and until it would form a coalition government with Moscow’s agents, the Chinese Communist Party. Nor only in consequence of the Yalta pledge given by Roosevelt and Churchill to Stalin that his demand for concessions in Manchuria enabling Russia to dominate China should be “unquestionably fulfilled” – a betrayal of a loyal ally by the West which matches its broken pledges to the Arabs in the 1914 war. Our defeat began, long, long ago, when, by failing to make concession to the Chinese nationalist movement until it had allied itself with Soviet-Russia, the West opened the door to Communist subversion, and enabled the Kremlin to obtain a permanent base in China from which it was to conquer the whole country a quarter of a century later.
Because of what may happen now in the Middle East, unless the West learns and applies the lesson of its failure in the Far East, it is necessary here to give a brief account of what happened in the twenties, when the Chinese nationalists were confronted with much the same problems and temptations as the Arab world today.
Today Nasser and other Arab nationalists frequently express their fear of “international imperialism.” If they know anything about China’s experience, their fears are probably reinforced.
While China was not, like the Arab world, divided up among the Great Powers into colonies, protectorates, or mandated territories either before or after the 1914 war, her condition was hardly more enviable. On the contrary, as was demonstrated during the war, china was at the mercy of any militarist nation that chose to attack her while the other Great Powers were busy fighting each other. Consequently Japan took advantage of the war – and of her secret treaty with England giving her a free hand in China in order to bring her into the war against Germany – to step up the tempo of her aggression against China.
Unlike the Arabs during World War I, the Chinese had been given no specific assurances or definite commitments by England promising them freedom from imperialist domination. But they to had joined the side of the Allies and had placed their faith in President Wilson’s Mount Vernon address on July 4 proclaiming that the post-war settlement would be based on “the free acceptance of the peoples concerned.” They therefore expected that the Paris Peace Conference would annul the “Unequal Treaties” imposed on China by force during the previous century – which had given England, France, Germany, Russia, Japan and the United States the privileges and powers which they jointly upheld to keep China subject and powerless.
Those were the days when Chinese reformers and patriots, later to be seduced by Communism, exultantly proclaimed, in words similar to those of the Resolutions of the General Syrian Congress in the same period:
Now that justice has triumphed over force, all people should
clearly realize that force cannot be relied on and that justice cannot
be ignored. The speeches of the American President, Woodrow
Wilson, are noble and just. He is the best man in the world. His most
important principles are national sovereignty, and the sovereignty of
the people over the government.
Chen Tu-hsiu, who wrote these words in the December 1918 issue of New Youth, was the outstanding leader of the Chinese intellectuals and patriots who had turned to the West for inspiration and political ideas to reform and modernize China and restore her independence, dignity and security. A year later Chen Tu-hsiu and his followers were forming Communist groups in the main cities of China, preparatory to the foundation of the Communist Party of China in Shanghai on July 1, 1921.
The reason why is as simple as it is important for us to understand – if we are not to lose the Middle East as well as the Far East. Disillusionment with the West, which failed to apply its liberal principles to people described by Kipling as “the lesser breeds without the law,” drove Chinese patriots either into the Communist camp or into a marriage of convenience with Moscow.
Instead of the bright hopes aroused by the United States President being realized, the Chinese
realized, the Chinese Delegation at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 had been told that Japan was to inherit Germany’s forfeited imperial position in Shantung. Nothing effective was to be done either to stop Japanese encroachments on Chinese sovereignty as formulated in her “Twenty-one Demands” or to release China from the shackles on her sovereignty previously imposed by the Western Powers.
Thus, the failure of the Western Powers to apply their professed principles of self-determination and equality to weak, or colonial, peoples gave the Communists their opportunity to move in to conquer China from within, by much the same methods as they are now using in the Arab world.
In 1918-20 the Soviet Government voluntarily abrogated all the unequal treaties imposed upon China during the previous century by the Tsarist Government, as it also then repudiated the secret Skyes-Picot agreement to divide up the provinces of the Ottoman Empire between Russia, France and England. Moscow then offered China friendship and aid based on political equality just as, equally falsely, in furtherance of her own imperialist designs, she is today giving support to Arab nationalism.
The apparent contrast between Russia’s actions and the unyielding attitudes of the Western Powers and Japan led Chinese conservatives and liberals as well as radicals to turn to Moscow as the only ally available in their struggle for the redemption of their country. Like some leaders of the Arab nationalist movement today, the Chinese nationalists in the twenties came to believe, not without reason, that without arms from Russia they could not hope to free their peoples from the pressures of the old colonial powers or from the menace of a militarist Asiatic neighbor with expansionist aims: Japan in the case of China yesterday, and Israel today in the Middle East. To the Chinese, then, as to the Arabs before the Suez War, Soviet Russia appeared as the only powerful ally available.
In 1919, campaigns of protest spread all over China with mass demonstrations of students and workers in the big cities demonstrating against the Versailles Peace Treaty and denouncing the pro-Japanese “Anfu clique” which controlled the Chinese Government in Peking. The strength of China’s awakened national feeling was also demonstrated by a nation-wide boycott of Japanese gods, which eventually forced Tokyo, in 1922, to relinquish title to the territory which she had acquired by the Versailles Peace Treaty.
Moscow, then as now, was of course waiting to take advantage of the profound disillusionment with Western promises and professions among all classes.
As Mao Tse-Tung was to write in 1940, in his book called The New Democracy, May 1919 was the turning point at which the Chinese Revolution “was transformed into a democratic revolution of the new type.”
In January 1923, Dr. Sun and Soviet Russia’s emissary, Adolf Joffe, reached an agreement for joint action on behalf of the Chinese national revolution. Their statement of January 26 specifically rejected Communism or Socialism for China. The alliance was clearly stated to be one only for the achievement of China’s national unification and independence.
Russian arms, money, technical and political advisers began to pour into Canton to implement Moscow’s promise that the national movement “could depend on the aid of Russia.” Michael Borodin arrived in Canton in 11924 as the Soviet adviser to the Kuomintang. The young Communist Party of China was given the slogan, “All work to the Kuomintang,” which was to be “the central force of the national revolution” and to “stand in the leading position.”
Two years before Moscow made its first overtures to the Kuomintang Party, Dr. Sun Yat-sen had been elected President of the Republic of China in Canton by the rump of the Parliament called into being, but almost immediately dissolved, by the Peking Government.
Dr. Sun’s influence and that of his Party extended all over China and was particularly strong among the overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia and the Philippines. But the authority of his government in Canton did not stretch beyond the confines of this southern city, and it was at the mercy of the mercenary troops it had hired. In 1922, Dr. Sun had been forced to flee from his “capital city” by the general in command of these troops. After he returned there with Michael Borodin he was easily persuaded by his Communist adviser that the Kuomintang must train a fighting force of its own of politically educated adherents to replace the mercenaries and overcome the armies of the war lords. Also that it must become a disciplined party, and organize a mass movement of workers and peasants if it were ever to achieve its aim of liberating and uniting China.
The subsequently famous Whampoa Military Academy was founded in 1924, supplied by Russia and staffed with Russian military instructors under the orders of Marshal Bluecher, the Commander of the Soviet Far Eastern Army who arrived in Canton under the alias of Galen. Its first Commandant was the young officer Chiang Kai-shek, who had studied at the Moscow Military Academy. Its political instructor was Chou En-lai, who as a student in Paris had helped found the French Communist Party. Its graduates were to form the backbone of the Chinese Nationalist armies. It also trained some of the officers of China’s Red Army of the future. There is a story in China that years later, after the break between Chiang and the Communists, Chiang Kai-shek spared Chou’s life after making him prisoner because of their former friendship at the Whampoa Military Academy.
With Borodin as mentor, the Kuomintang was reorganized on similar lines to the Bolshevik Party and proclaimed a program of reform for the workers and peasants which was a combination of Dr. Sun’s liberal but vague “Three Principles” and the revolutionary land and labor platform of the Communists.
In his negotiations with Moscow’s representatives, Dr. Sun had refused to permit the Chinese Communist Party to affiliate with the Kuomintang; but he allowed individual Communists to join on condition that they pledged themselves to be loyal to Koumintang principles and aims. This proviso made little if any difference since the Chinese Communists maintained their own Party organization, and since promises have never had any importance for Communists anywhere at any time. They were now placed in a better position to “bore from within” than they would have been as a minority party either affiliated to the Kuomintang or in opposition to it. Under its aegis they increased their numbers by leaps and bounds. They recruited many of the most active and capable young members of the Kuomintang into their own ranks. And since the “Organization Department” of the Kuomintang into their own ranks. And since the “Organization Department” of the Kuomintang, engaged in creating a mass basis of popular support among the workers and peasants, was headed by a Communist until May 1926, the Chinese Communist Party developed from a small group of revolutionaries into the organizers of a mass movement. Communist Party membership, which had only been 1,500 in 1924, increased to 10,000 a few months later, and within a year multiplied fifty fold.
While advancing from strength to strength, the Communists did not conceal their true aims from anyone who took the trouble to read the resolutions of the Comintern or the Party literature. Here it was plainly stated that the Chinese Communist Party was collaborating with the Kuomintang with the object of revolutionizing its principles and tactics and “converting it into a workers and peasants party.”
As Harold Isaacs, the best informed of Dr. Sun’s Marxist critics, wrote in the unexpurgated English edition of his book The Tragedy of the Chinese Revolution*:
[Sun] hoped to evolve means of transforming Chinese Society
peacefully and without convulsion after securing power for himself
and his followers by purely military means. There was nothing in
common between Sun Yat Sen’s concept of democracy and the
[Communist] idea of the direct conquest of political rights and
liberties by the people.
- London: Secker and Warburg, 1938. The edition published in 1951 by the Stanford University Press was revised by the author after he ceased to be a Trotskyist.
The antagonism between the Western-influenced political philosophy and enduring Confucian ethics of Dr. Sun and the Marxist materialist philosophy of the Communists was as great as the antagonism between Islam and Communist atheism. Unfortunately, however, this fact does not constitute any safeguard against Communist conquest from within or without, since the Communists, like the devil in medieval legends, are adept at disguising themselves as angels or fair temptresses who lure mortals to destruction.
Dr. Sun, like so many Western as well as Asiatic liberals after him, although he denounced the theory of class war and repudiated the Marxists materialists interpretation of history, failed to realize that there was a fundamental cleavage inaims, as well as in philosophy and methods, between him and his Communist allies. Then as now, the Communists aimed at the destruction of Western civilization and all its values. Dr. Sun and his generation of Chinese patriots, like the Arab national leaders today wanted, on the contrary, to enable their peoples to enjoy the benefits and freedoms of Western civilization by emancipating them from its economic and political domination. Like the Arabs, they would have grasped the hand of the West had it been extended in friendship; whereas the Communists, then as now, cannot be conciliated or won over, since their aim is the annihilation of all ethical concepts covering the nature of man and society.
Although the methods of the Communists in utilizing the Kuomintang to build up their own strength caused disquiet and resentment among its “bourgeois” or conservative members, Dr. Sun until the end of his life discouraged anti-Communist feelings, or the expression of them. He seems to have imagined that Moscow was genuinely supporting him and the Chinese Nationalist movement. Either he failed to understand the basic antagonism between his aims and those of the Communists; or like some Arab leaders today, he harbored the illusion that national liberation movements can become associates or allies of Soviet Russia without letting the Communists run the show.
Colonel Nasser and his supporters in Syria, Jordan and elsewhere in the Arab world, have not advanced nearly so far along the fatal road of collaboration with the Communists as Dr. Sun Yat-sen and his successor, Chiang Kai-shek, did from 1923 to 1927. Today in Egypt, in contrast to America, France and Israel, the Communist Party is outlawed and its members liable to fifteen years imprisonment, in spite of Soviet Russia’s arms aid to Nasser’s government. Instead of following the example of Sun Yat-sen, Nasser seems to have modeled his policy on that of Kemal Ataturk of Turkey, who managed to maintain friendly relations with Soviet Russia and receive the benefit of Kremlin backing during the first years of his rule, while suppressing the Communists in Turkey, who managed to maintain friendly relations with Soviet Russia and receive the benefit of Kremlin backing during the first years of his rule, while suppressing the Communists in Turkey. However, the Soviet empire today is infinitely stronger than in the twenties, and this game therefore is much more dangerous and unlikely to succeed.
Colonel Nasser cannot, in any case, be accused of anything like the same degree of political naivete as Dr. Sun – or such Americans as General Marshall, who a quarter of a century later, believed that Stalin could be relied upon to support Chiang Kai-shek’s Government if Chiang would admit the Chinese Communist Party into a “coalition government.”
Dr. Sun and his colleagues were under the illusion, shared by most Americans during World War II and by some Arab leaders today, that you can ally yourself militarily with Communist Russia to achieve your aims without danger of Communism destroying you from within or perverting your war aims into the opposite of what you intend. The Western Allies of World War II, in their anxiety to smash Germany at the least possible cost to themselves, ignored the old adage that when you sup with the devil you need a long spoon. Since the true face of Communism had not yet been revealed in the early twenties, Sun Yat-sen is less to blame than Roosevelt or Churchill a generation later. Sun was not even aware that he had invited the devil to sup with him.
No one eats with the devil if he can satisfy his hunger in better company. If we offer the bread of freedom and independence and the wine of hope to the Arabs, those of their leaders who want them to enter the Satanic realm of the communists will lose all influence and power.
A British historian, G. F. Hudson (The Far East in World Politics, London, 1937), has described the four-year partnership of the Kuomintang and the Comintern as “a marriage of convenience in which each side hoped, first to make use of and then to cheat the other.” Certainly the Communists saw it in that light and made no secret of their intention to liquidate the Kuomintang after having used it for their own revolutionary ends.
It is no doubt true that the Chinese bankers, merchants and contractors who gave financial backing to the Kuomintang similarly planned to use and then discard the Communists. The last thing they desired was a “dictatorship of the proletariat.” But they realized that if the whole of China was to be won for the Kuomintang, it must obtain mass support by means of the demagogic propaganda which the Communists supplied, along with their ability and energy in organizing trade unions and peasant associations. The Communists for their part expected that, by ostensibly subordinating themselves to the Kuomintang, they would eventually ride to power on the crest of the wave of the national movement against imperialism and the popular reform movement promising “land to the tiller” and a new deal for the wretchedly poor and terribly exploited Chinese workers. And they would probably have succeeded in the twenties, instead of having to wait for three decades, had they not over-reached themselves, and if Chiang Kai-shek had not turned the tables against them in 1927.
Sun Yat-sen died on March 12, 1925. Chiang Kai-shek, who succeeded him as the leader of the Chinese Nationalist Party and Government, had greater practical political competence. Well aware of Communist designs, he prepared to meet fire with fire. He made his first strike against the communists in 1926 by closing down their trade-union and strike committees, and by arresting the Communist Party’s “political workers” attached to army units. But neither he nor Moscow were as yet ready for a show-down. Stalin suppressed the news of Chiang’s crackdown on the Chinese Communists; and Chiang continued to profess admiration for the Comintern, saying that its two aims were to unite the oppressed peoples and the proletariat of the world.
The inevitable and complete break which began the Civil War came a year later, after the triumphant army of the Kuomintang-Communist coalition had swept from Canton to Shanghai in a series of almost bloodless victories. The mass support of millions of Chinese peasants, workers, coolies, small shopkeepers, landowners and students, imbued with patriotic fervor or hoping to improve their miserable conditions of life, caused the armies of the war lords to melt away or to join the Nationalists.
Shanghai was the citadel of Western financial and political influences, as well as the center of Chinese banking and merchant interests linked up with the Western “imperialists.” The conservative, moderate or middle-class wing of the Kuomintang, led by Chiang Kai-shek, wanted to avoid a head-on clash with Britain, France and the United States, to negotiate for recognition and treaty revision, and to obtain Western financial assistance for the reformation and regeneration of China. The Communists wanted to expel the West from China by violence for the benefit of Soviet Russia and to prevent “the stabilization of the Chinese Revolution on a bourgeois basis.”
Happily, Britain then had a government which realized that the only policy which could destroy the Communist power in Asia was an alliance with the moderate, Western-oriented Nationalist forces.
In contrast to Anthony Eden’s unrealistic attempt in 1956 to crush Arab nationalism by force, the British Government in 1927 overruled the “Old China hands” in Hong Kong and Shanghai who demanded armed intervention against the Nationalist movement. Together with the United States, Britain cut the ground from under the feet of the Communists and their allies in the left-wing of the Kuomintang by offering far-reaching concessions; recognition of the National Government; treaty revision; tariff autonomy; cession of Britain’s Hankow concession to Chinese sovereignty; and Chinese participation in the administration of the Shanghai International Settlement.
Stalin had made no secret of the fact that the Chinese Nationalists were to be exterminated once they had ceased to be useful to the Comintern. As late as April 5, 1927, in attempting to justify his unsuccessful double-faced China policy against his Trotskyist opponents, Stalin delivered a speech to the Communist Academy in which he said:
ChiangKai-shek is submitting to discipline….
The peasant needs an old worn-out jade as long as she
is necessary. He does not drive her away. So it is with us.
When the Right is of no more use to us, we will drive it
away. At present we need the Right. It has capable people,
who still direct the army and lead it against imperialists.
Besides this, the people of the Right have relations with
The generals of Chang Tso-lin and understand very well
how to demoralize them and to induce them to pass over
to the side of the revolution, bag and baggage without striking
a blow. Also, they have connections with the rich merchants
and can raise money from them. So that have to be utilized
to the end, squeezed out like a lemon, and then flung away.
Unlike the leaders of the Western world who, during and after World War II, either did not know, or paid no attention to, the aims of the Communists as revealed in their literature, resolutions and speeches, Chiang knew what to expect. He decided to liquidate the communists before they could liquidate him and the Kuomintang. Stalin’s scheme to use the Chinese Nationalists against Britain, America and France while at the same time preparing to deny them the fruits of victory by a subsequent “proletarian revolution,” backfired. Having utilized the mass movement led by the Communists to frighten the Western Powers sufficiently to force them to come to terms, Chiang Kai-shek turned around and destroyed his Communist allies. He became the squeezer instead of the lemon, and should go down in history as the only man who ever bested Stalin.
Chiang, on arrival at the gates of Shanghai, ordered the Communists and their working-class supporters in the City to surrender their arms. The Comintern representative, instructed by Stalin to avoid an open rupture, ordered them instead to bury their arms. The Comintern representative, instructed by Stalin to avoid an open rupture, ordered them instead to bury their arms. Having been forbidden either to surrender or to fight, thousands of them were massacred by Chiang’s forces, first in Shanghai, and later in Canton, after Stalin, caring nothing for the lives of his obedient followers, had ordered the Communists to stage an insurrection without any hope of success.
The trade unions were smashed for a generation, to the acclaim of the foreigners who, two decades later, were to denounce the Generalissimo as a “fascist dictator.” Yet by that time Chiang had developed qualities of statesmanship and restraint which led him to endeavor to conciliate his enemies instead of exterminating them. Perhaps the whole history of China in our era might have been different if, in 1927, he had been less brutal and had not alienated many true liberals by these massacres, not only of Communists but of trade unionists, students and peasants.
To Chiang Kai-shek in 1927 it may have seemed that he had no choice. The young Nationalist movement was menaced by powerful foreign foes who could, and would, have drowned the Kuomintang Revolution in blood and fire, in the same manner as they had crushed the Taipings and the Boxers in the past, if Chiang had not compromised with them. And he could not do so unless he destroyed the Communists and their influence over the left wing of the Kuomintang.
By becoming the squeezer instead of the lemon, Chiang Kai-shek saved his country for more then twenty years from becoming a Soviet satellite. But he incurred the enduring enmity, not only of the Kremlin, but also of the Communist fellow travelers and all the misled British and American liberals who followed in their train. Their influence in America and England, together with that of the British die-hards who hated the Chinese Nationalists more than the Communists, was to prove so powerful following the war against Japan and Germany that the United States withheld the arms aid and political support which would have enabled Chiang Kai-shek’s Government to defeat the Chinese Communists and their masters in Moscow.
The fundamental issue in China in the twenties, as it is today in the Middle East, was whether the Nationalists would take the Moscow road of autarchic economic development under a dictatorship which would transform her into a replica of Soviet Russia, with peasants, workers and everyone else sacrificed to the process of creating industrial and military strength; or seek and obtain friendship and credits and technical aid from the West for progress in freedom. Britain in 1927 made it possible for China to take the latter course. Had it not been for Japan, the Nationalist Government would in all probability have been able to lift China out of her age-old poverty by means of Western aid and gradual reforms carried through without violence and expropriations. But its very success in the decade 1927-37 in overcoming the centrifugal forces, reforming the Administration and developing China’s productive forces was the reason for Japan’s full-scale attack in July 1937.
The eight-year-long Sino-Japanese War which began in 1937 ruined China. She fought longer and with far less aid than any other ally of America in World War II. Thanks to Japan, and to America’s post-war policy, the Chinese Communists were given their second chance to convert their country into an appendage of the Soviet Empire. In 1949 they won the victory denied to them by Chiang Kai-shek in 1927.
But it was not Japanese aggression and United States policy alone which led finally to Communist victory. The root of the matter lay in the ill-omened partnership of the Nationalists and Communists back in 1922-27, when the generous fervor of Chinese patriots and idealists for liberty, social justice and the emancipation of their country was misused, perverted, or rendered abortive by the Comintern’s double-faced cynical policies. Those who had joined for followed the lead of the Communist Party on the mistaken assumption that its aims were theirs were ruthlessly sacrificed by the Kremlin to its own ambitions – and just as ruthlessly, however necessarily, punished by Chiang Kai-shek.
Partnerships with Communism are not broken easily. Disassociation does not come as a mannerly disagreement between equals, but as the escape of a potential slave from his would-be master, accomplished usually only by violence. The violence of 1927 was the terrible price that China had to pay for the help she had received from Communism during the previous five years. The youth who died, or lost heart, or became time-servers in the days of wrath and vengeance, torture and death following the break with Moscow, were the flower of the nation. Never again would there be such high hopes, self-sacrifice and patriotic fervor as had been displayed in the brief period when men of all parties and classes had joined to raise China from the abject state into which she had fallen in the nineteenth century – and when they had been led astray by Communism. The experience of 1922-27 undermined Chinese idealism, weakened the will of the nation, and made it more difficult to resist the new attack in 1946.
It could happen again in the Middle East. The patriotic and progressive-minded Arab youth, unlike that of China in the twenties, has not been seduced by Communist ideas; it follows national leaders who enjoy their own mass support rendering them far more independent than the Kuomintang in the days of Sun Yat-sen. But if the West continues to exert economic and political pressure with the aim of isolating or destroying these leaders, self-preservation may drive them to take the China road; and present sentiments of gratitude toward Russia among the Arab peoples may be transformed into sympathy for Communism, leading to collaboration, and eventually, as with China, to disaster.
THE CHALLENGE OF BOTH IMPERIALISMS
In a great speech to Congress on July 2, 1957, Senator John F. Kennedy said that the most powerful single force in the world today is neither Communism nor Capitalism, nor the H-Bomb, but man’s “eternal desire to be free and independent.” The junior senator from Massachusetts may be over-optimistic, in view of the free world’s desire for peace at almost any price, but he was eminently right when he said:
The great enemy of that tremendous force of freedom is called,
for want of a more precise term, imperialism – and today that
means Soviet imperialism and, whether we like it or not, and
though they are not to be equated, Western imperialism.
Some see only the challenge and menace of Soviet imperialism and would have us do nothing to help the peoples of Asia and Africa struggling to be free or independent, lest we injure the imperial interests of our French and British allies. Others would have us seek peaceful coexistence with the Soviet Empire and imagine that the specter of Communism can be laid by good works, meaning abundant economic aid to “underprivileged” peoples. John Kennedy is one of the few concerned with our failure “to meet the challenge of imperialism on both counts and thus failing in our responsibilities to the free world.” He prefaced his speech, dealing at length with the Algerian problem which we have neglected, or refused to recognize as our problem, by saying:
Thus the single most important test of American foreign policy today
is how we meet the challenge of imperialism, what we do to further
man’s desire to be free. On this test more than any other, this nation
shall be critically judged by the uncommitted millions in Asia and
Africa, and anxiously watched by the still hopeful lovers of freedom
behind the Iron Curtain. If we fail to meet the challenge of either
Soviet or Western imperialism, then no amount of foreign aid, no
aggrandizement of armaments, no new pacts or doctrines or high-level
conferences can prevent further setbacks to our course and our security.
In contrast to Senator Kennedy, many Democratic and Republican opponents of Eisenhower’s stand on the Suez argued that, since we could not, or dared not, take any action to stop Soviet Russia’s bloody suppression of the Hungarian Revolution, we should not have insisted that Israel, Britain and France withdraw from Egyptian territory. By some strange logic which can be understood only by acceptance of the premise that two wrongs make a right, some eminent conservative senators and columnists who on other issues could always be counted upon to take a principled stand, argued (as did Henry Hazlett in the National Review of February 9, 1957) that Israel should not be compelled to obey the United Nations by evacuating the Gaza Strop unless there was also “an immediate withdrawal of Russian troops from Hungary and from every other satellite nation where they are not wanted.”
Thus, once again, as when Palestine was partitioned, it was considered just and proper by many Americans that the Arabs should be called upon to pay the penalty for Europe and America’s sins of commission or omission……………..
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