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Opinion column by Aubrey Herbert (pseudonym for Murray Rothbard), published in Faith and Freedom, Volume VII, Number 5, January 1956, pp. 22-23
Along Pennsylvania Avenue - Aubrey Herbert

The Democrats hope to make foreign policy a key issue in the coming campaign. We welcome this refreshing change from the miasma of bipartisan silence that hung over previous elections. Unfortunately, the Democrats do not attack the global interventionism of the Administration, they direct their fire against the "Geneva spirit."

The recent report of the left-wing, highly influential National Planning Association, which called for stepping up the cold war, increasing foreign aid, and bigger arms budgets, showed us what shape this attack will undoubtedly take in 1956.

Thus, the Democrats prepare to justify the historic label which unmerciful critics have tried to fasten on them: "the party of socialism and war." These critics say that war spending and war inflation give socialism and the bureaucracy a shot in the arm. What's more, they point out, the mass base of the Democratic Party—the labor unions—stand to prosper in the glow of inflation and armament contracts.

What about the Geneva spirit? What happened to it, and why? Some pro-war Democrats explain it this way: the Administration was "taken in" by Soviet smiles at Geneva; the conference lulled us into a peaceful, budget-cutting mood; and Soviet wickedness finally revealed itself at the second conference, ending the Geneva interlude. And a good thing, too; for now we can return undisturbed to the halcyon days of the arms race and the simmering "warm" war.

I'm Sticking My Neck Out

I realize that I will be ducking barbs and slings for the next month—but I would like to risk reporting on the Geneva conference in an unpopular way, which unfortunately will make my name "mud" with some groups in both parties.

In the first place, the summit conference at Geneva achieved, in my humble opinion, one lasting, monumental success, which no later squabbles can erase; it made clear to the anxious peoples of the world that neither side wants to wage a nuclear war obliterating the human race. Here was something to "smile" about. Secretary of Defense Wilson, believed by some reporters to have shown a greater grasp of the need for peace than any other man in the Administration, pointed this out after the break-up of the second conference.

A Fist Thumped the Peace Table

What happened then at the second Geneva conference? Why did it accomplish nothing? The press searched for an explanation in the personality of Mr. Molotov, and hung on his every grimace. But I believe the key to the failure of the conference was not in personality, but in the issues, and the positions taken by the powers.

And here is the opinion which will bring the wrath of Mars on my vulnerable head—I believe the United States and its allies came to a second conference with an amazing series of unnecessary demands on the Russians. For no good reason, in my opinion, the unification of Germany was placed at the top of the agenda—as the necessary condition for any general agreement. What was the hurry? It is sad to see Germany partitioned, but it has been split for some ten years now. Other countries—Korea, Vietnam, Ireland—are also split, but no one felt impelled to put their unification in the rush category.

Not only did we put German unification first, we demanded it on our terms and no other: we insisted that Russia abandon East Germany, and agree to unification and German entry into NATO. Further, we refused to include the East German government in the unification talks. What did we offer in return for these generous demands? Nothing.

No government in the world would have accepted such terms, except a vanquished enemy. This was not negotiation; it was the delivery of surrender terms. No wonder that Molotov's smiles turned to frowns. And since Russia was not vanquished, she wasted no time in spurning these demands.

The Reluctant Bride Bridles

Our stand on disarmament was no better. For eight years, we had set forth our disarmament plan, involving simultaneous reduction of atomic and "conventional" arms, prohibition of atomic weapons backed by international inspection. For eight years, the Russians refused.

Finally, they appeared to accept the principle of these proposals. And as soon as they did so, the United States, like a reluctant bride, announced that "conditions had changed," forgot disarmament, and talked only about Eisenhower's theatrical aerial inspection plan. Exchange of blueprints is all well and good, but it does not lead to disarmament.

On the final topic of East-West contacts, American policy again took on the flavor of delivering surrender terms. We asked for great modifications of the domestic Soviet system—such as elimination of censorship, changes in the ruble rate, etc. Russia asked for changes which are proper between governments: freer trade being the prime example. We absolutely refused to discuss lowering trade barriers.

Aside from these American stands, the Geneva conference was plagued by an undercurrent of demands that Soviet Russia free its East European satellites. Again we put on the air of ultimatum!

Did Dulles go to Geneva in the spirit of a conqueror instead of a negotiator? It seems to me that he did. But why? Two answers seem plausible—perhaps the truth blends both. On the one hand, the Administration, particularly the "Liberationist" wing may have thrown their weight around the conference—accidentally, or ineptly—hoping to impress world opinion: German elections, exchange of blueprints—and then head for home.

Secondly, the State Department may have fallen for its own propaganda: that Russia was on the brink of revolt, that ten years of cold war had stirred up the Russian people, and that Russian peace overtures were simply signs of grave weakness instead of rational pursuit of peace. The State Department should have heeded Senator George "Molly" Malone's warning of this summer. Travelling the length and breadth of Russia, Malone (R., Nev.) pointed out that he saw no signs of revolution in Russia, and that our government had better wake up to that fact.

Where our foreign policy will go from here is anybody's guess. But one thing is certain: the leftists will offer their favorite answer for all foreign problems: bigger gobs of foreign aid. The Yankee dollar—seized from the taxpayers—will continue its destined course down every kind of foreign drain.

The significance of the 1955 elections lay not in the number of mayoralty races won by Democrats or Republicans—but in the surge of a tax rebellion throughout the country. In state after state, taxpayers accustomed to rubber-stamping local government requests for more money, suddenly turned and voted them down by large margins.

A Voice Booms "No!"

New Yorkers hadn't rejected a constitutional amendment (almost always a request for new funds) in ten years. Now they suddenly defeated a $750 million highway program, and a sewer bond issue. Ohio voters defeated a CIO plan for greater unemployment benefits by a landslide. All over the nation, voters turned down funds for: parking lots, schools, water development, slum clearance, etc. The mighty array of taxpayers rose in revolt.

Neither party gave this development much publicity, but rest assured that the politicians are worried. Politicians, regardless of party, are interested in expanding the tax funds at their disposal. Nothing alarms them like the prospect of the sleeping giant—the people—awakening to the issues involved. It looks as if the people are becoming aware of the fraudulent nature of the welfare state—that they purchase their own "welfare" with their own money, less a rakeoff to the bureaucracy. Both parties fear this most: that the taxpayers will at last make their wishes known by voting one great audible "No!"‡‡