Norman Cousins, Buell Gallagher

War, Peace, and Mankind

VTR Date: April 6, 1958



Moderator: Richard D. Heffner
Guests: Norman Cousins, Dr. Buell Gallagher

Announcer: The Open Mind, free to examine, to question, to disagree. Our subject today, “War, Peace, and Mankind.” Your host on The Open Mind is Richard D. Heffner; Historian, Author and Lecturer at the New School for Social Research.

Mr. Heffner: I have often heard — or I had heard before I got into the television field, — that the FCC doesn’t allow one to begin or break into the middle of a program, or even end it, with a personal message, so I have never said “hello” to my son or anything of the kind, but I would today like to begin our program with thanks from everyone who works on the Open Mind for two awards that we have recently received.

One was the Freedoms Foundation Award that The Open Mind received for the second consecutive year. Thanks too, for the George Polk Award in Journalism which we recently received. I think I was particularly delighted by the award in Journalism because we have always felt here on The Open Mind that we are engaging in a kind of unique form of feature journalism. And that’s why, in a sense, we don’t pretend that The Open Mind is a place where you’ll find a debate each and every week we appear. We are not particularly designed to bring on this side and that; and pitch them one against the other.

Now, the program is called The Open Mind, and I hope that we can with forebearance from all and with the interest of all, present distinguished people who will discuss, from their own particular points of view, sometimes different, sometimes quite similar, some of the basic issues before us at mid-Twentieth Century.

And so of course, this is true of our subject today, the question of “War, Peace, and Mankind” –a most appropriate subject for Easter Sunday.

I think that probably all of us are aware that more and more books and more and more newspaper and magazine articles and more and more speeches are being made and written about the question of war and peace; and possibly it’s appropriate to note that even a motion picture like “The Bridge on the River Kwai” which was concerned with the larger issues of men in war, just received the Oscar. And in the New York Times the other day there was a quotation from Pope Pius XII. It said: “Pope Pius warned today that a new world war would be total, terrifying and disastrous for all humanity.” And he said, nothing is lost by peace; everything can be lost by war. But of course there are many controversial issues concerned with this general topic of 11 War, Peace, and Mankind”.

Now, let me introduce to you my guests for today’s discussion.

First, Mr. Norman Cousins. Mr. Cousins is the Editor of the Saturday Review and author of the recently published “In God We Trust.” My second guest is Dr. Buell Gallagher, who is the President of City College here in New York City.
I think I would like to break the usual format, maybe because of the unusual and very general – and in a sense, very difficult nature of our subject – not by throwing out a question (as I’ll admit I gave you warning, Mr. Cousins), but by asking you if you would just speak for a moment on some of those thoughts which are very near and dear to you on this whole subject.

Mr. Cousins: Mr. Heffner, it would seem to me that today would be an extremely appropriate day to consider the question of “War, Peace, and Mankind,” not necessarily from the standpoint of one nation or another nation, or one philosophy and another philosophy; today might be a good time to consider the problem before us in terms of man himself.

I am afraid that it is very easy to become lost in the thrust and counterthrust, in the problem of jockeying for peace; it is too easy to get lost in terms of what one nation needs, what one nation wants, and what another nation needs or wants. Perhaps this might be a good time to find out what man himself needs on this particular planet. It may very well be that today’s crisis is represented not by the state of one nation and another nation. It may very well be that today’s crisis is represented by the condition of man — indeed, whether man will survive. And if he does survive, what will survival be like? This may well be our central problem.

Mr. Heffner: Then you are more concerned with the issue of peace than with the issue of war or peace, in a very real sense.

Mr. Cousins: Yes, but when you say I am more concerned with the issue of peace, I think you perhaps know that when I talk about peace I am not talking about just any kind of peace. I am talking about a real peace. Peace, to have any meaning, must have freedom; it must have a chance for the individual to grow. If you can get peace only by shattering your moral values, your spiritual values, then you haven’t got peace; you’ve got something else.
When I talk about peace I am talking about a real peace, a peace which the individual can understand as giving him a real chance to have some forward thrust in the world.

Dr. Gallagher: I have an affirmative reaction to the things that Mr. Cousins has been saying. I suppose that one ought not to resort to easy clichés, and therefore if I would use one or two, I immediately would argue that I should have the next hour to qualify them. But it could be asserted, I think, that everyone today knows that the choice is Peace or Perish, and that the peace we are talking about cannot, as Mr. Cousins has pointed out, be the peace of the cemetery or the peace of totalitarianism. If we are have a peace which is genuinely founded it has got to be one which affords freedom; constructive opportunity for constructive relationships, and which therefore evokes from men the affirmative values for the creating of a just and brotherly society around the world, rather than merely checking their negative impulses so that we don’t have universal destruction.

Mr. Heffner: Yes, but I wonder if you would elaborate. I wrote this note — since I can’t talk, I can write — you said not the peace of the cemetery nor the peace of totalitarianism, and yet I think for most people; for most lay people, the choice seems, in a sense, to have been made just that — choosing between war or totalitarianism.

Dr. Gallagher: Precisely our difficulty is that we are on the horns of a dilemma and we think that’s all there is — these two options and nothing else. And the real crux of the matter lies in a deeper explanation of the nature of man, and of his potential, that a third alternative may be discovered and, having discovered it in terms of ideals, that we may find practical steps to work toward it. This is our real job.

Mr. Cousins: Yes, I am very glad that Dr. Gallagher has emphasized this, because just in the past few weeks we have seen both these extreme viewpoints emerge. Both sides — everyone now, of course, acknowledges that nuclear violence is unthinkable in the context of this particular struggle. Yet if nuclear violence is unthinkable, what is thinkable? And who is doing the thinking?
Well, we have two opposing groups that seem to be emerging. One group says there is no defense. If we wait until we are attacked we will be destroyed. Therefore, this group says, let’s hit first. We are not under obligation to wait until we are hit first.
The other group, led by Bertran Russell, says, “Yes, modern warfare could mean the extermination of man. Therefore, let us give in; let us surrender. Find out what Russia wants and give it to Russia. Russia can’t last forever; Communism won’t be here eternally. At some point the nature of Communism will develop forces within itself that will overthrow it, but at least mankind will survive.” Now, this is the Bertrand Russell point of view.

Mr. Heffner: It seems to me that both viewpoints are wrong, because we are confronted, not with the alternatives only of suicide or surrender. It seems to me that we have another alternative, and this is the alternative of trying to create sanity in the world, a basis for the meaningful survival of Man. You see, I don’t think that we either have to kill, be killed, or spend the rest of our lives on our knees. It seems to me the time has come for the United States to say exactly what is necessary in terms of a peace for all peoples; peace under effective law as the best way to eliminate the present world anarchy.

Mr. Heffner: Well, how do you answer the questions that do come up, then, in the minds of most people? You gentlemen agree there is a third way, but what is that third way in the face of what seems to be a totally opposite force; a country that seems to be willing to use force, at least up to this nuclear point?

Dr. Gallagher: Well, Mr. Cousins has rightly posed it in terms of the statement that our choice between suicide and surrender can be answered only in terms of sanity. But now, the steps that you have in arriving at the goals are just as important as the definition of the ultimate goal itself. The trouble, for example, in my judgment with those who adopt a total pacifist point of view today, is that they are right in the definition of the goal and utterly wrong in assuming that we are anywhere near it in terms of the practical strategies that they advocate.
You have to start with the fact that the world situation is essentially anarchic, and the use of force in any society is axiomatic. Simply, you have to have a police force in New York City. Now, your next question is: Having the necessity of force, it is totally anarchic and unethical, obscene and immoral, unless it is carried out within the framework of agreed upon law that defines justice and protects human rights. You cannot get this law unless, in turn, you have some kind of government for it, and you cannot achieve the government unless in the fourth place, you have the basic understanding, conviction and mutual trust and confidence that is essential to any kind of society that holds together.

Mr. Heffner: Yes, but didn’t we in a very real sense have a structure similar to the one you suggest when the Korean War broke out?

Dr. Gallagher: This is the first; time in human history that force has been used in the framework of an international ideal. It is unique. Never before in human history has this occurred, and it is therefore probably the most hopeful sign in recent human history.

Mr. Cousins: This raises some interesting questions. The first question it raises is this: Why did we wait until the attack came before the United Nations created the means of resisting the attack? As Dr. Gallagher says, a police force is necessary — a police force operating against the background of effective and clearly defined law. But if you are going to wait until there is a gang war before creating your police force, you are going to have to suffer the consequences of surprise attacks by gangs, and I don’t think we are going to be able forever to run after history with a mop.
At some time we are going to have to anticipate likely action in the world, and it seems to me that wherever you have the kind of vacuum that existed in Korea you are going to have trouble. That is why (and I hope Dr. Gallagher agrees) that the job of the United Nations is to create an effective police force.
But when you talk about an effective police force it becomes important to consider the force that exists outside that police force. In short, so long as the nations have nuclear armaments far greater than the potential of the UN itself, your police force isn’t going to be too effective. Yet your police force will be useful in terms of brush-fire threats. But we are concerned now not only with the small threat; we must be concerned today with the large threat.

Dr. Gallagher: At this point, Mr. Cousins, also, there are a few instances of break-through of the human conscience in the face of an adverse power situation. I cite, for example, the amazing contrast of the reaction, on the one hand, of Soviet Russia at the time of the Hungarian uprising, and on the other hand of, the British and French at the time of the invasion of Suez.
The British and French, reluctantly to be sure, but clearly and finally yielded to the pressures of world public opinion. There was a conscience operating here. Whereas the brazen way in which the Russians, saying one thing and doing another, refused to be influenced at all by the flow of the conscience of mankind, and carried out the power struggle.
Now here I think you have one point at which, because people were susceptible to the insights of ethics and of conscience, mankind was able to do something creative, constructive, if only in the stopping of the conflict. There still remains the job of building the peace. It teeters uneasily, but there was a response to ethical impulse, and it is this, the basic character of Man that I am referring to.

Mr. Heffner: But this was an ethical impulse that led, it would seem to withdrawal rather than to positive action, and how will this ethical impulse be activated when action needs to be taken, when you come up against violation of law, violation of authority?

Mr. Cousins: Well, Dr. Gallagher, it seems to me, stated the issue rather clearly. We are agreeing with each other perhaps more than your participants usually do on this program. But Dr. Gallagher was quite right; you have to state the long-range goal; you have to be concerned with your long-range requirements. But at the same time you can recognize there are specific things that can be done on a day to day basis which do touch the conscience of man and give you a better chance in moving towards that ultimate goal.
Now we come to one specific point which has been in the news this past week, which has to do with the problem of nuclear testing. Here you have some debate. Well, shouldn’t the United States try for everything before it stops tests? Shouldn’t we make sure that we have complete control over existing stockpiles and assure some cut-off in the production of fissionable materials?
And until such time as that may be accomplished shouldn’t we continue to test? That represents one point of view.
But here I would like to invoke the principle (and here I interpret it as a principle — Gallagher’s principle) which ought to apply here, that you do what you can on a day-to-day basis, and as concerns the issue of nuclear testing it seems to me that the Russian announcement may very well represent a moral disaster for the United States — not so much because of what Russia itself said when it stopped its bomb testing, but what we ourselves said in response to it.
It seems to me that this was a chance for the United States to come out with something that was morally imaginative and certainly dramatic, that would meet the specific need. Instead of which I am very much afraid that our action was puny and petulant, and we tried to consider this problem solely in the context of the cold war of propaganda advantage or disadvantage instead of seizing upon this as a heaven-sent opportunity to put the Russians on a series of other spots. We say, “All right, you are willing to stop your atomic tests. So are we. Now; are you willing to do this? Are you willing now to have a reduction in your existing stock piles? Are you willing to have a control over missiles with inspection? Yes? We are glad you have accepted this. That’s fine. Now, we have got this out of the way, let’s go on to something else.” Instead of that we backed down, and in so doing I am very much afraid we alienated ourselves from the good will, to a certain degree, of the overwhelming majority of those peoples on whom our security really depends.
Faith without works, I maintain, is death.

Mr. Cousins: There is perhaps an interesting example of this in the fact that we are guided by yesterday’s rather than by today’s needs.

Dr. Gallagher: We must be guided by tomorrow’s needs.

Mr. Cousins: There is little question about the fact that the United States, and indeed a large part of the world in the 1930s was totally concerned with peace as a word rather than as a fact. We disarmed but Germany did not disarm. We were caught short. And so we resolved never to be caught short again.

Dr. Gallagher: That’s right. And yet today we don’t recognize adequately that it’s not enough to be strong in terms of armaments. It is important to understand exactly what is necessary to meet this particular problem, and this particular problem cannot be met with armaments alone; it is problem that far transcends armaments. Indeed, if it should come to a military showdown then we’ve lost. I think President Eisenhower was absolutely right when he said that no nation could win the next war. But we haven’t really understood what that particular statement means. We are still working to win the next war instead of attempting to avert it.

Mr. Heffner: Yes, but I wonder about this. You began by saying (and Dr. Gallagher has said too) that he wasn’t talking about the peace of the cemetery or the peace of totalitarianism. You say we are concerned with winning the next war. How can we help but be, in light of a conflict that is hot or cold as the situation demands, or as it is created by the Russians? How can we help but be in the face of an enemy that is armed and does seem not to care overly much for our sensitivity?

Mr. Cousins: The important thing, it seems to me, is to find what victory consists of, and to know how you win. It seems to me that the only way you can win is with a non-military show-down in the world, and that means that we have to have access to the majority of the world’s peoples. Unless the majority of the world’s peoples are willing to accept the leadership of the United States, then we do not have what we need for victory. This is what victory in the world consists of.
If, on the other hand, the Soviet increasingly is able to speak for or represent the majority, then we are losing.

Dr. Gallagher: Well, may I suggest here that the fact of universal disaster resulting from armed conflict can be – I think at least in a very large measure – true also for any other kind of victory. We are talking about a conflict between two ideologies or two kinds of societies, the slave world and the free world.

Dr. Gallagher: As long as we think in terms of the victory of the free world over the slave world we are in the same category of total disaster that we are when we talk about the Atomic War, for the reason that the effort to get that victory rests on the assumption that the final pay-off is that if you don’t get it any other way you are going to get it in armed conflict.

Mr. Heffner: Yes, but then I would ask the question that I asked before. How, given what I would call the nature of man, or our usual definition of the nature of man, are you going to achieve a situation where anything less is demanded.
This is where I would say that our object is not to win over the others, but to win them over. Our primary function, therefore, is one which rests not at all in achieving a necessary level of armed defense, but rests primarily in building up the kind of confidence in ourselves which depends on justice and respect on having no more Little Rocks and so on in our own country. We must create the same sort of relationships with other peoples elsewhere, including the Russians, that are involved in evoking the better nature of man. We must base the conduct of nations and people upon the assumption that the conscience (cough) of the world can be relied upon and evoked. When this does not follow, then we fail. When it does follow we succeed. But these are the successes that count, and the only ones that count.

Mr. Cousins: Well Mr. Gallagher, I am not sure that we are going to be able to win over the Russians. I don’t think the Russians are going to be able to win us over. But I do feel that we can get behind a big idea. It seems to me that what we have to do is to change the nature of the competition with the Soviet.

Dr. Gallagher: Correct.

Mr. Cousins: I would like to see the United States, for example, say to the Soviet, “Yes, let’s have a competition. Let’s compete in this: Who can do the most for man on earth? We will mobilize our resources in behalf of the human community. We would like to fight disease, we would like to fight hunger. We have got some ideas as concerns the question; what is involved in the idea of making a better tomorrow?”

Dr. Gallagher: Precisely right.

Mr. Cousins: “We dedicate ourselves to this. This is the kind of competition we propose.” Then let the Soviet accept.

Dr. Gallagher: And everybody wins in this! Whereas in the kind of conflict we now have, everybody loses. There lies the basic difference.

Mr. Cousins: But I am very suspicious of any arrangement in which everyone wins.

Dr. Gallagher: Oh, I like Alice in Wonderland. Prizes for everyone.

Mr. Heffner: Yes, but isn’t that just the trouble, that a good many people would say (and let’s be perfectly truthful) listening to this discussion, that it does smack a little bit of Alice in Wonderland, because they would say: What about when you come from behind the looking glass? What about the question of an immediate threat by the Soviet Union?

Dr. Gallagher: Well, I think, Mr. Heffner, that there may be a difference in judgment here or opinion between us. This is not foreign to the character of the program we’re on, I hope. I would argue that the sort of reliance in the better nature of Man, properly invoked, that is inherent in the things I am trying to say, is the fundamental approach to our problem. I do not by any means believe that men are saints. Neither do I believe in total depravity. I do believe in the evocative character of hope and in the provocative character of difficulty, and when hope and difficulty converge at a moment of history, then comes the matter of choice which rests solely in mankind and nowhere else. We are the people who make history, for good or for ill. We make it in terms of the choices that are predicated upon fear, mistrust, or in the light of the fear and the mistrust are in the third place predicated upon the hope.
It is our puny expectations that defeat us in the end, and if there be any relevance of this remark to our national policies, let it be relevant. It is the puny expectation that defeats us, and it is only as we place reliance in the deepest character of Man and his cosmic footage that we have any real hope in our hour of peril.

Mr. Cousins: I don’t believe, Mr. Heffner, that we are going to get a better world just by asking for one, or believing in one.

Dr. Gallagher: That’s right.

Mr. Cousins: I don’t think we are going to produce a nobler breed of man just by saying we must have a nobler breed of man. I don’t believe that we are called upon, in fact, to produce a Utopia in this world. All we are called upon to do is to meet our real problems, to meet our problems where our problems live, and it seems to me that we have constructed a world of fantasy, where we are not analyzing the problems for what they really are; we assume that problems take a certain shape, we assume that the enemy is of this or that particular nature, and every once in a while there is a moment of truth when we discover what the facts actually are.
I would hope that we would say that if we want a peace we have to move towards the peace in terms of what peace itself requires. We are not going to have peace by building bigger and bigger stockpiles of nuclear weapons. The weapons must be brought under control, but if they are to be brought under control we must be absolutely sincere in proposing this to the world, and give some evidence of our good faith, and not to use arguments as propaganda advantage. The Russians are using it, the British are using it, the French are using it, and the Americans are using it. That is why I said at the start of this program that it might be a useful thing, just once, to start thinking in terms of what Man requires on this earth, rather than in terms of what the nation requires.
I put Man above the nation. This, it seems to me, is where our ultimate allegiance must rest. This does not mean, however, that an American should not have deep pride in his country, but I think that the strongest pride that a person can have in his country is in the knowledge that that country serves the welfare of the human community.

Mr. Heffner: I was particularly interested, in terms of what you were just saying, in Dr. Gallagher’s statement about the evocative character of hope. When I asked you the question of whether this wasn’t a little bit of Alice in Wonderland, this was the sort of answer that I had hoped for, because I think there aren’t very many people who think, even on Easter Sunday, about the evocative character of hope.

Dr. Gallagher: The reason being that we are so thoroughly self-convinced in our fears that we have no means of hoping. The break-through of human expectation – the great break-through – must come precisely here. It was Euripides who said: “The whole expanse of air is open to the eagle’s flight, and every land is native soil to the noble man.”
This is not foreign to the character of mankind. This is not Utopian in the invidious sense. It is the great hope that does beckon.
Now I would agree with Mr. Cousins that we do not now expect to live in Utopia, but I would argue very clearly that our ideals are like the stars. We do not expect to reach them, but we had better steer by them if we expect to make any port.

Mr. Heffner: Are you optimistic in this regard?

Dr. Gallagher: I don’t think that is the important question. I think I’m right. There’s the difference. Man’s fate is the road, not the goal; and it is the fact that he is on the right road which is what is important.

Mr. Cousins: There is perhaps one point that I would venture to add to that and hope for your agreement, which is that if the hopeful individual thinks only in terms of his hope, and the next man’s hope, and does nothing in behalf of those hopes, they will succumb.
If the individual feels that there is a separation between himself and government, those hopes will collapse.

Dr. Gallagher: Right.

Mr. Cousins: If the individual, however, sees himself as a vital unit in the creation of important decisions that affect the entire world, and feels that a certain measure of dedication is called for in making those hopes come true, then I believe that we have a real basis for optimism.

Dr. Gallagher: I agree.

Mr. Heffner: That’s a good note on which to end our program. Thanks so much, Mr. Cousins and Dr. Gallagher.
Next week at this time you will see “Ask Congress” with Representative Albert Moreno, Republican of Connecticut. We’ll be back in two weeks, on April 20th, with The Open Mind, and our subject then will be “Harlem, N.Y.C.”
We will see you then, on April 20th.