Peace Talks Radio Host Paul Ingles talks with Charles Doleac, President of Japan-America
Society of New Hampshire and manager of http://portsmouthpeacetreaty.com
Ingles: Charles, I think those interested in the history of peacemaking struggle with Roosevelt as a figure a little bit, the Ken Burns documentary scholars seem to agree on his kind of visceral love of war yet you have this Noble Peace Prize for the Portsmouth Treaty in the mix along with his advocacy for more socially equality, his challenges of big business, his affection for conservation, so many contradictions in this story. Where do you find yourself landing in your opinion of him these many years later?
Doleac: Well I think you said pretty well that he is a multifaceted guy. He was a trust-buster who was against big trusts. He was wealthy himself but he was not a robber baron and he didn’t like them very much and he was a conservationist. He was a very smart, intellectual guy. He read all the time. Burns did a very nice job explaining that, but he clearly believed in the United States becoming (and he foresaw this), the indispensable national power – international power but in its own national interest. That would be the tipping point for keeping a balance of power and peace in the world.
There’s a great statement that everybody always uses about which is “walk softly and carry a big stick.”
Ingles: I think it’s “speak softly.”
Doleac: I’m sorry, “speak.” Who do you know that does that; carries a big stick? Who do you know that does that? Think about it. If you think about some fairly major religious figures, the stick doesn’t look like something that’s necessarily something they’re going to beat you with, but it’s a big impetus. That phrase is not a warlike phrase. That phrase, properly understood, coming from Africa is a peaceful phrase and it means that you’re not going to use a stick and you don’t want to use a stick and you don’t want to threaten anybody.
On the other hand, another one of Roosevelt’s favorite Aesop’s fables was: if you’re going to try to create peace, you have to have the power to prevent the aggressor from upsetting it, so you don’t cut a deal – if the wolves are negotiating with lambs, the first thing that the lamb should not do (which is what they did in Aesop’s fables) is trade away their guard dog as a gesture of peace because then the warlike wolves could take advantage of them. You have to have a power but use it for peace, for a balance of power, not for aggression or negative international events. He really got hit with Kissinger’s sense of that and I don’t think they gave him credit for that. I just think – again, they had a lot to say and if Roosevelt had been around during WWI, although he desperately wanted to get into it, my guess is that Roosevelt would have been much more aggressive about trying to use American power to prevent the war from getting out of control and to get people to the table to see if they would negotiate before the war got as deep as it did.
Ingles: Well Roosevelt really personifies that first round of American exceptionalism. It was like 50 years, 40 years after the Civil War, our major crisis, but it’s the beginning of the century that would be dominated by the idea of America as a power, but is it fair to say that in Roosevelt’s perception it’s more born out of a notion of benevolent power that is hard won, but it empathetic and is going to do a great job of building a society that’s fair to all?
Doleac: He would say that. Roosevelt would truly say that. The best way to look at if from his point of view is he was a great admirer of the British and there had been the Pax Britannica. Now if you’re Indian from India, you may not agree exactly with that.
Ingles: Or if you’re American Indian.
Doleac: That’s true if you’re a Native American. There’s absolutely no question about that, but the bottom line is, compared to everybody else, Britain was indeed a benevolent power. I think in many instances, not all, I think he saw the United States right then, right at that time, 1905 and the beginning of that century with the building of the Panama Canal, (which is one of his big things) and with the rise of the Navy being the critical power, (he was very big on a big navy) he definitely thought the United States was going to be the ultimate balancing power after England. That’s what he really thought and he thought the United States was kind of, in a way, easier and I think he meant it for all the right reasons, but he made mistakes. He would be politically incorrect on some issues now.
In terms of understand spheres of influence, balance of power, trying to create a mix that works. There’s no question that he saw it and he understood it and he was very successful in doing it in this war because this war ended the war between Japan and Russia. They were the two primary powers, expansive powers in Asia and he’d look at them as blocking each other out and just to make sure everybody understood the game, Roosevelt then sent a great white fleet (it was colored white for peace by the way) to Asia so everybody saw that we were kind of in the game too, but he did create that balance and the Russians and the Japanese didn’t go to war again in WWI and didn’t go to war again until the end of WWII, although they had some skirmishes with some over-zealous Japanese generals in their 30s. Generally speaking, the peace held for a long time.
Ingles: Your website portsmouthpeacetreaty.com calls this negotiation one of the first true examples of multitrack diplomacy. Maybe before we go further, let’s define what that term is as it was thought of then perhaps.
Doleac: Well it wasn’t thought of as anything back then. That’s a modern term and what the modern term means is many things actually. The first use of the word “multitrack” meant there was a formal negotiation track with formal negotiators which would have been what was going on in Portsmouth. There were other multitracks of informal negotiations going on in other places either by back-channel diplomacy or somewhat informally so you would have formal negotiators in the negotiation room doing things and then outside you might have other negotiators with relationships based on business or based on scholarship or academics or religion or whatever that were also supporting those negotiations.
Multitrack many times meant just two tracks. Now people talk about multitrack diplomacy as 9, 10, 15 tracks. You talk about economic multitrack diplomacy to end conflict, school kids getting together, I could go on forever. The idea of multitrack is the informal nature of it and also the back-channel nature of it.
At this time, the word didn’t even exist and Roosevelt cleverly set that up at Portsmouth and indeed was required to do so because neither party wanted Roosevelt or anyone else to be at the negotiating table. They wanted to negotiate directly, so Roosevelt was not in the game so to speak in terms of helping the negotiations as Carter was with the Egyptians and the Israelis at Camp David. He had to be away from that, but he was deploying back-channel diplomacy all the time while the negotiations were deadlocked.
He had set up the process for the local people to be the informal hosts which allowed them to stain the negotiations by social events and creating an atmosphere that was very conducive to both; to the negotiators to stay at the table when the negotiations deadlocked ultimately prolonging the negotiations to about 30 days which allowed both governments, both the Russians and the Japanese to make compromises they clearly had not intended to make before they had gotten to the negotiations that ended up with peace. Roosevelt had these different layers set in place and that’s why he’s one of the great diplomatic Presidents.
Ingles: It seems as if the townspeople of Portsmouth, New Hampshire did take a key role in all this. Talk for another minute or two about some of this social peacemaking that was going on that you feel had some important impact on it all.
Doleac: Well essentially what Roosevelt did is he said, “I’ll let you two negotiate directly. You’ll negotiate at the shipyard which is a port for the naval facility, so the Navy was actually in charge of the protocol for the formal negotiations. The Governor of the State of New Hampshire or the host of the parties socially, etc. was using the townspeople and churches and frankly all kinds of social groups to entertain the negotiators in between. It was kind of like the Olympics if you think about it. You can imagine if all of a sudden the Olympics were going to happen in your town, would you want to be someone who is creating an atmosphere where they would be successful and then everybody would push for the idea to stay at the table long enough to create a peace and that’s what happened in Portsmouth. Local people, people that were formally involved in social events, people that were at churches, people took them to baseball games, people would meet them on the street, especially the Russians because there was a Jewish population here spoke Russian and spoke with Russians. There were petitions from the Jewish population that hopefully peace would be achieved in an honorable way and that the fighting would stop. This constant social milieu where people were encouraging the delegates clearly had an effect especially in terms of neither side wanting to be the one to leave the table first. Roosevelt himself recognized the importance of all this by rewarding people afterwards with presidential yacht visits, etc., because of the effect that they had by creating social gatherings to where both the Japanese and the Russian delegates were invited during the peace process to keep them talking so to speak.
Ingles: Am I hearing you correctly that Roosevelt was aware that this would have an impact and was encouraging it or does some of it just seem to come from the pride of Portsmouth?
Doleac: I think both. Roosevelt went to Harvard and he was an aristocrat so to speak and there were a number of people here in this area that summered from Harvard and some of those were people that he knew. But the local people really jumped into it and the Russians and the Japanese both commented on it especially after the treaty was negotiated successfully. They could not get over the fact that the population had been so good to them and had been so – their hospitality was so great. One example of that is that the hotel they stayed in, the Wentworth by the Sea Hotel was offered to them at no price by the proprietors of it at the time. They stayed there at no cost and then went to the shipyard across the river to negotiate. Wentworth by the Sea is there today. It’s a great part of their history.
There are many, many stories about this and what’s interesting about it is that it’s just like the Olympics. If you talk to anybody that’s been in an Olympic town, you understand what interaction did. One person can really affect the international goodwill just by being hospitable and interested in the peace being successful, so this idea that every person counts, everybody can make a difference in international affairs is what was going on in Portsmouth and it’s going on now.
When you invite anybody to your house, some kind of visitor from a foreign country, a student exchange, all this stuff adds up to multitrack diplomacy. Multitrack diplomacy means that in a treaty itself where the concept of community diplomacy, public diplomacy, citizen diplomacy, everybody can make a difference and New Hampshire was like that. We have now the first in the nation primary. We didn’t have that then, but this concept that everybody counts and everybody can make a difference and everybody matters is pretty much a New Hampshire thing and it played out in the peace treaty.
Ingles: Well it helps to have the peace table right down the street from you, but I suppose what you’re describing is something of a metaphor that if could imagine the peace table is right down the street from us and act accordingly, we might have different results.
Doleac: And what’s interesting about it, just think about it, if all of a sudden in your town somebody came to you and said there’s going to be a negotiation between the Palestinians and the Israelis and people are going to come here and they’re going to need to be occupied while they’re not negotiating, what would you do? I think if you had a shot, you’d want to be someone that was trying to be hospitable and creating an atmosphere where the negotiations would be friendly.
In negotiations now, if I understand it, those that are in the scholarship of it, they think about that stuff. They think about setting that kind of stuff up for the negotiators. They think about things like having the negotiators (I’ll give you a classic example) playing with children, inviting them to go to a school and talk to children, both sides of the negotiation. It humanizes the process. It humanizes what war is and means. People interplaying in that regard can be critical and so most diplomatic scholars will talk about that, but back then, nobody talked about it, they kind of just did it and it wasn’t really well known until 2005 what effect this had because when you looked at the negotiations, you could see that there was a breakdown and for ten days. There was a deadlock and when you look at what happened with the negotiators time during that deadlock, you’ll find that it was totally occupied by all kinds of social events created by the local populace and the state politicians to encourage them to stay and encourage them, even though it was deadlocked, that there might be a way out.
The other thing is Roosevelt did three things. First of all he got the parties to come here. That’s a big deal just getting them to the table.
The second thing he did is he said if you’re going to negotiate and you reach an issue that you do not agree to, I encourage you to just skip over it and go to the next issue and that’s the way they negotiated. What happened was they had a number of issues that they had to decide in terms of control of Korea and Manchuria and they agreed on all those issues, 9 or 10 of the 12 issues involved, so by the time they went back there were two that they had not agreed on. They had an awful lot of good stuff on the table that they really didn’t want to leave and go back to war over, so he created that methodology.
Third, he was critically involved in back-channel diplomacy with both the Russians and the Japanese. He had a direct line with the Japanese and realizing how the Russians were and how they operated, he had his best guy from Harvard, who was a diplomat, one of the best diplomats the United States, sent to Saint Petersburg to be the one that talked to the czar. When he went and talked to the czar at a critical stage and got the czar to agree to give up some territory that he probably would not have agreed to which was a critical part of the comprise. He deserved the Nobel Peace Prize for what he did, he really did, but surrounding all of this at the table were these local groups that were trying to foster a good atmosphere for peace.
Ingles: Charles Doleac, let’s wrap up here. What are a few examples of back-channel or multitrack negotiating by the U.S. since then that might also be traced back to the Portsmouth treaty example?
Doleac: Almost everything now they try to deploy multitrack diplomacy. Whenever Kerry or any of these guys are going out – one person that talked a lot about it was Hilary Clinton. She talked about public diplomacy and having connections to school groups back and forth, business leaders, church groups, any kind of cultural events, ping-pong diplomacy to open up China so to speak. All those things are what I would call multitrack or informal diplomacy. Back-channel diplomacy happens a lot. That’s when you don’t see it, but that’s when the formal guys are talking through back-channel. You don’t see it that often.
Ingles: The Cuban Missile Crisis is probably the biggest example of that.
Doleac: Right and of course most of that stuff you don’t know about, but now we know about that. That’s a good example.
It’s interesting to me that when Carter – the book that just came out on Carter’s negotiations with the Israelis and the Egyptians that he was looking for examples in American history and what he had was the Russo-Japanese War, Teddy Roosevelt. People were looking to see what Roosevelt did.
It was interesting because another critical part of this; Teddy Roosevelt understood from both the Japanese and the Russian point of view that they wanted no one else in their room because both of them had been pressured by other powers in negotiations of other wars. The Russians were upset by the European powers pressuring them when they had been involved in wars with the Turks and the Japanese were upset with the European powers pressuring them when they had been at war with the Chinese and so they didn’t want anybody else at the table.
When you think about it, the best way to negotiate if you can do it is to have the parties themselves do the negotiating in an atmosphere where everybody is encouraging them to create peace. That is the best way to have it done if you can do it.
Now if you need someone in between, which is what Carter ultimately had to do with the Israelis and the Egyptians, still the gesture is Roosevelt was not imposing his values on them. He was merely trying to persuade them with geopolitical sense and for our own national interest stance what the right thing to do was, not imposing his point of view.
Peace Talks Radio host Paul Ingles talks with Dr. Allida Black of George Washington University author or editor of many books on Eleanor Roosevelt, including the 2014 edition of Eleanor Roosevelt’s book “Tomorrow is Now.”
Ingles: The Miller Center at the University of Virginia writes about FDR. FDR hoped that the war, once in it, would produce a more secure and peaceful post-war world. Is that a fair assessment?
Black: Oh absolutely. I mean all you’ve got to do is revisit the conversations that FDR had with Winston Churchill way back when they were negotiating what would be known as the Atlantic Charter. I mean FDR famously said, “More than an end to wars we need an end to the beginning of wars” and one key facet of this to FDR was the dismantling of the empire and so if you look at FDR and Churchill when they met in that summer of 1941 in the middle of the Atlantic, FDR is conditioning really American aid to Britain on the dismantling of the empire which he really believed was one of the primary causes of war.
Ingles: Now FDR was president for nearly nine years before the U.S. was drawn into the war with the Pearl Harbor Attack. It was an interesting time in U.S. history. I think isolationism and the American peace movement were quite strong there. Tell us a little bit about FDRs international philosophies during those years before the war.
Black: Well, FDR was most famously known for his good neighbor policy with Latin America. And I would differentiate strongly between isolationists communities and the peace community. I think the peace community had a clear understanding of America’s role in the world and the power that the values of democracy had to really build a more cooperative world both within and outside of our borders. The isolationist community didn’t think that way at all. It was all America, all the time. We don’t give a flip about anybody outside our borders and so I think it is a big mistake to equate or sort of put in the same camp the peace movement and leading isolationists.
Ingles: Would you acknowledge that they were both very strong sentiments that FDR was steering around in terms of his political philosophy and his international philosophy.
Black: I think they were very vocal. I don’t think they were as strong as history wants them to be.
Ingles: Anybody who is watching this fictionalized series called Manhattan will hear the scientists many, many times talk about how the development of the bomb is going to ensure peace. Let me have you talk a little bit about that possible philosophy that the government, Roosevelt, scientists were pursuing when they were pursuing this terrible destructive bomb.
Black: Well I think they very much believed that. I don’t think this is a romanticized view at all, but the one thing that all of us have to remember is that during the development phase nobody, nobody had a gut-level understanding of the power of this weapon. I mean not Oppenheimer, not Niels Bohr, not FDR, not any of the military that were in charge of it. They knew that it was going to be an enormously powerful weapon, but nobody envisioned really the cataclysmic effect that it had on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, so we have to get this sort of Monday morning historical quarterbacking out of the conversation and to go back to the funding of the Manhattan Project, people really were afraid that Germany would develop the bomb first, that they had to have a deterrent, that in fact they could use to say to Germany, “Not so fast!” FDR never had any hesitation that the way to win the war was to be as aggressive as possible. So it’s a hypothetical. It’s a “what if” question about would FDR have dropped the second bomb after the first one is dropped. It’s also a truly hypothetical question of how FDR would have handled those negotiations when in fact we knew that the Japanese emperor was willing to surrender. So it’s all speculation at this point and as a historian, I am very loathe to get into that area of speculation.
Ingles: Even before FDR became President, Eleanor Roosevelt was sketching out quite a peacemaking and human rights resume. Just tell us about some of the highlights of that time.
Black: Well, both Roosevelt’s were committed to the League of Nations and the World Court. There is no doubt about that. The paper trail is a mile long on it. Eleanor was profoundly affected by the horrors of war that she saw in 1919 & 1920 when FDR and Eleanor went over to Europe to investigate the condition of the American fleet when FDR is the Assistant Secretary of the Navy. And so to Eleanor, the human consequences of war; the shell-shocked sailors that she tried to work with at Saint Elizabeth’s, people who were just so traumatized by poison gas and the horror that they saw that they literally were quaking and their jaws would shake so much they couldn’t eat or speak. She was haunted by that. She was haunted by the horrors of Bella Wood in France and writes extraordinarily articulate, descriptive letters of the decimation of that landmark by war and so when she comes home, returns to the United States after that trip, she redoubles her effort to in fact speak out on issues and becomes very involved with Carrie Chapman Catt and the American Committee for the Causes and Cures of War and also increasingly active to support American veterans and so as she begins to articulate her own agenda, peace is a huge factor in that. It is not the central part of her early agenda, but it clearly is a major part.
Ingles: Well then FDR ascends to the Presidency and during those first nine years of FDR’s terms, what were Eleanor’s leanings and her influence on FDR and please include or start by telling us something about her 1935 remarks known as “Because War is Obsolete.”
Black: Well, it wasn’t really a talk, it was an article that was written for a book that Carrie Chapman Catt asked her to contribute to and it’s 1935, it’s the huge debate around the World Court and whether America should join the World Court. Both Roosevelt’s were profoundly committed to that. The Senate disagreed with them, but Eleanor campaigned across the country and even went on a national radio show the night before the Senate debate, the Senate vote on the World Court to debate the Administration’s fierce critics and so it’s sort of in this background that because the idea of war is obsolete was writing and she says that the easy answer to this is that of course we cannot do away with war because of human nature and what Eleanor argues in this piece is not that there will never be war, but that the immediate sort of gut response to go to war to solve a problem is absolute – it’s obsolete. Let me say that again. I mean it’s not that she thinks that we can do away with war. What she hopes we can do is do away with the impulse to go to war to solve every dispute and that’s what she argues is obsolete. In fact, what we need are structures like the League of Nations, the World Court what will become the United Nations to in fact have a world forum in which people and nations can be held accountable for their actions and that the world can help arbitrate their disputes in a way that minimizes conflict. So Eleanor was anti-war, but she was never a Pacifist.
Ingles: Let’s talk a little bit about her steps after FDRs death, her work on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at the United Nations and other key benchmarks that helped define her totally on her own in the later years of her life.
Black: Well, I think from a peace perspective, the most powerful action, the most long-lasting action that Eleanor took was her role in the early formation of the United Nations. I mean when she joined the first American delegation to the United Nations in January of 1945, nobody knows what shape the UN will take. I mean we have the general outline, but we don’t understand how the Security Council is going to work. We don’t understand what other agencies the UN will create. And Eleanor’s role, not only as Chair of the Human Rights Commission, but also as someone who is intimately involved in what will become UNICEF and what will become the World Health Organization and her role in really supporting the International Labor Organization is a huge testament to her commitment to preventing war and a huge testament to her firm belief in this because by taking these positions, she took a huge financial hit. The assassination attempts on her life escalated and she became increasingly controversial, often labeled a Communist or Socialist because of her commitment to the declaration.
I would just like your listeners to consider this: pretend that they are in a room with 18 people and you’re all going to sit around a big square table and you don’t agree on anything except by god you beat the Germans. You don’t agree on private property or whether private property exists. You don’t agree on citizenship, on what the role of government is. You don’t agree on God or whether God exists. You don’t agree on how an economy is supposed to work. You don’t agree on anything except you’ve won the war and now you want to extract the spoils of war in a way that will help you rebuild your country. There is not a person on the planet who could have negotiated with or sort of shepherded, if you will, this group of instructed delegates the way that Eleanor Roosevelt did. And it showed a masterful understanding not only of the cultures of the different nations, but how people had to understand and manage fear. She understood that she would have to convince the United States, who only wanted political and social rights; the right to vote, the right to run for office, the right to organize, the right to pray, the right to speak out, to compromise with people who were passionately committed to social and economic rights, the right to work, the right to a salary, the right to a nationality, the right to a religion. How were women and children to be treated in this new world? But she was able to finesse in a way that still makes my jaw drop; the United States, a reluctant United States I might add, to embrace social and economic rights and the Eastern bloc not to object to political and civil rights and because of that, I really believe the world had a new vision.
Go back and think that you’re in this table and you’re seeing this room sitting around this table and you’re seeing for the first time the horrible images, I mean the unimaginable images that come out, not only of the Holocaust camps, but of refugees. There are 40 million starving refugees in Europe. That’s almost seven times the number of people who were killed in the holocaust camps. Then think about the millions of people that you know who were scared by the war one way or another. And how do you say to the world you have a fundamental choice; you can believe that the world is essentially evil and violent and horrible and that world wars will always occur at 15 and 17 year intervals or you can say yes, there is a horrible element here, but this is a new vision that we must hold onto as a way to counteract that vision and that’s what Eleanor understood and that’s what she gave the world and it is an extraordinary accomplishment.
I mean for example, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is now used as a model for more state governments and more constitutions than the U.S. Constitution and the U.S. Bill of Rights. And we now have courts all over the world, including the United States courts, saying that yes, there is legal merit to this. So it is a stunning accomplishment and now the terrors that we face are from rogue terrorists not from rogue nations.
Ingles: Dr. Black, on a smaller scale, can you share with us any smaller stories about how she did what you were just describing; working with these disparate delegates from all around the world and even probably trying to convince the delegates in her own her U.S. delegation to compromise. How was she good at it?
Black: Well I think one of the reasons that Eleanor really succeeded as the negotiator was that she was profoundly familiar with the religions of the world. I’m just not talking about the Judeo-Christian tradition. I’m talking about the I Ching, the Bhagavad, the Quran. I mean Eleanor was really incredibly interested by how people found faith. In fact, in 1939 she writes this book called The Moral Basis of Democracy in which the Quran is a major player. So Eleanor was way ahead of the curve on that.
The second thing is that she was a respectful and patient negotiator who, as one of my students once said, also had a Velcro butt. I mean she would stay at the table. She would not leave and she would keep the conversation going.
She had the same approach outside the negotiating room where she would meet one on one with the delegates, one on one with the delegates’ key advisors.
And then she insisted that the declaration be clear and readily understandable to all the people of the world. She said that it has to be realistic and not grandiose. People worry about food. They worry about shelter. If you go to bed hungry every night, if you go to bed worrying that you’re going to be killed at night, you wake up afraid and your dreams of democracy and an inclusive community fade because you put yourself first. So that was really her attitude.
She also talked to all of the staff of the United Nations whether it was the janitorial crew, the clerical crew, the political crew to see what their hopes were for this.
And the other thing that she did in the final stages of the declaration when she knew time was really running out, she did two things that no other person in history will be able to do. The first is she’s an instructed member of the American delegation. She’s a government employee, but at the same time she was writing a syndicated column that circulated at this time not only throughout the United States but throughout Europe during the negotiation stages and she will make her own personal case in this column while she is making America’s case inside the committee rooms and nobody will ever be able to do that again.
And then the second thing that she did when the United States really began to pull away from social and economic right, she went to her fiercest critic on the delegation; John Foster Dulles, a republican who was the Foreign Policy Advisor to Thomas Dewey who challenged her husband in ’44 and who would challenge Truman in ’48 and she said to Dulles listen, you are a profound Catholic, you are a man of your word, you are incredibly committed to the Catholic Fellowship of Reconciliation, this is a catholic issue, will you support me on this? And she gets Dulles, her fiercest critic and the Democrat’s fiercest critic to side with her on this and then when the Secretary of State George Marshall and the Assistant Secretary of State love it, say I don’t know about this, Eleanor writes them a very blunt letter. She writes to “love it” and then she copies it to Secretary Marshall and she basically says if you don’t support this, I will resign and I will tell people in very plain language why I am leaving this effort.
And at this point in the Truman Administration, Truman’s poll numbers are not high. They are basically where George W. Bush’s poll numbers were. He hasn’t become “Give ‘em Hell Harry” yet and so she’s got that political clout to sway the State Department to stand with her before the President and say this combination of rights must be included and that was a profoundly skillful negotiation.