The Promise of American Life eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 523 pages of information about The Promise of American Life.

II

A STABLE AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL SYSTEM

Possibly some of my readers will have inferred by this time that the establishment of a peaceable international system in the two Americas is only a sanctimonious paraphrase for a policy on the part of this country of political aggrandizement in the Western hemisphere.  Such an inference would be wholly unjust.  Before such a system can be established, the use of compulsion may on some occasions be necessary; but the United States acting individually, could rarely afford to employ forcible means.  An essential condition of the realization of the proposed system would be the ability of American statesmen to convince the Latin-Americans of the disinterestedness of their country’s intentions; and to this end the active cooeperation of one or more Latin-American countries in the realization of the plan would be indispensable.  The statesmen of this country can work without cooeperation as long as they are merely seeking to arouse public sentiment in favor of such a plan, or as long as they are clearing away preliminary obstacles; but no decisive step can be taken without assurance of support on the part of a certain proportion of the Latin-American states, and the best way gradually to obtain such support has already been indicated by Mr. Elihu Root during his official term as Secretary of State.  He has begun the work of coming to an understanding with the best element in South American opinion by his candid and vigorous expression of the fundamental interest of the United States in its relations with its American neighbors.

Fifteen years ago the attempt to secure effective support from any of the Latin-American states in the foundation of a stable American international system would have looked hopeless.  Countries with so appalling a record of domestic violence and instability could apparently be converted to a permanently peaceable behavior in respect to their neighbors only by the use of force.  But recently several niches have been built into the American political structure on which a foothold may eventually be obtained.  In general the political condition of the more powerful Latin-American states, such as Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, and Chile, has become more stable and more wholesome.  If their condition of stability and health persists, their industrial and commercial prosperity will also continue; and little by little their political purposes will become more explicit and more significant.  As soon as this stage is reached, it should be possible for American statesmen to estimate accurately the weight of the probable obstacles which any movement towards an international agreement would encounter.  A series of particular steps could then be taken, tending to remove such obstacles, and, if wise, the whole question of an international agreement could be raised in some definite way.

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