POLICIES & PRINCIPLES: Morgenthau's Hope

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On the first page of his first book, Henry Morgenthau wrote: "To my sons . . . with the hope that neither they nor their children will have to fight in another war." On the other 239 pages, he wrote his plea and plans for the realization of that great hope. The book: Germany Is Our Problem (Harper; $2).

When the ex-Secretary of the Treasury's book was published last week, the German problem was only one of many over shadowing problems. Nothing done or undone in Germany alone could prevent World War III. But the book was notable for two things: 1) it made public for the first time the full, often misreported "Morgenthau Plan" for Germany; 2) it argued strongly for a hard peace against increasing pressure for a soft peace.

What Not to Do. Wrote Morgenthau: "Germany . . . has been compared to a mental patient ... a whole zoo of animals ranging from snakes to apes . . . a young girl led astray." He preferred to write without hatred, attacked many a popular idea of what to do with Germany.

¶| He argued against a prolonged U.S. occupation (instead, he wanted Germany's less compassionate neighbors to take over the job).

¶ He opposed splitting Germany into bits & pieces (he advocated "slight dismemberment" into a North and a South German State, and an international Ruhr zone).

¶ He questioned the assumption that "a democratic regime" could be imposed by the Allies.

¶ He doubted that any enforced "re education" could succeed.

Peace, It's Wonderful. Morgenthau's major premise: Germans must live primarily on the land, give up all their heavy industries ("without them, no matter how savage her aggressive aims may be, she cannot make war"). The Potsdam plan for Germany followed the general lines of this familiar "goat pasture" doctrine, but did not go as far as Morgenthau would like.

Author Morgenthau never quite got to grips with the fundamental question: how to make the plan work. Looking around for ways & means of enforcement, Morgenthau tangled with rhetoric, left his great hope enmeshed in tautology. Said he in effect: 1) to have peace, the world must de-industrialize Germany; 2) to keep Germany de-industrialized, the world must have a strong will for peace.