Seventy-Four Years Ago—Robert A. Taft Opposes NATO Treaty Ratification

On 1949-07-26, Republican Senator Robert A. Taft of Ohio, only one of 13 senators to oppose ratification of the treaty which created the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), spoke in the U.S. Senate on why he opposed it. This is an abridged transcript; I have not found an on-line source for the complete speech.

Why did I vote against the Atlantic Pact? I wanted to vote for it-at least I wanted to vote to let Russia know that if she attacked western Europe, the United States would be in the war. I believe that would be a deterrent to war… We issued just this warning in the Monroe Doctrine, and though we were a much less powerful nation, it prevented aggression against Central and South America. That was only a President’s message to Congress, and there were no treaty obligations, and no arms for other nations. But it was one of the most effective peace measures in the history of the world. I would favor a Monroe Doctrine for western Europe.

But the Atlantic Pact goes much further. It obligates us to go to war if at any time during the next 20 years anyone makes an armed attack on any of the 12 nations. Under the Monroe Doctrine we could change our policy at any time. We could judge whether perhaps one of the countries had given cause for the attack. Only Congress could declare a war in pursuance of the doctrine. Under the new pact the President can take us into war without Congress. But, above all the treaty is a part of a much larger program by which we arm all these nations against Russia… A joint military program has already been made… It thus becomes an offensive and defensive military alliance against Russia. I believe our foreign policy should be aimed primarily at security and peace, and I believe such an alliance is more likely to produce war than peace. A third world war would be the greatest tragedy the world has ever suffered. Even if we won the war, we this time would probably suffer tremendous destruction, our economic system would be crippled, and we would lose our liberties and free system just as the Second World War destroyed the free systems of Europe. It might easily destroy civilization on this earth…

There is another consideration. If we undertake to arm all the nations around Russia from Norway on the north to Turkey on the south, and Russia sees itself ringed about gradually by so-called defensive arms from Norway and. Denmark to Turkey and Greece, it may form a different opinion. It may decide that the arming of western Europe, regardless of its present purpose, looks to an attack upon Russia. Its view may be unreasonable, and I think it is. But from the Russian standpoint it may not seem unreasonable. They may well decide that if war is the certain result, that war might better occur now rather than after the arming of Europe is completed…

How would we feel if Russia undertook to arm a country on our border; Mexico, for instance?

Furthermore, can we afford this new project of foreign assistance? I think I am as much against Communist aggression as anyone, both at home and abroad; certainly more than a State Department which has let the Communists overrun all of China… But we can’t let them scare us into bankruptcy and the surrender of all liberty, or let them determine our foreign policies. We are already spending $15,000,000,000 on our armed forces and have the most powerful Air Force in the world and the only atomic bomb. That, and our determination to go to war if Europe is attacked, ought to be sufficient to deter an attack by armed force.

We are spending $7,000,000,000 a year on economic aid to build up those countries to a condition of prosperity where communism cannot make internal progress. Shall we start another project whose cost is incalculable, at the very time when we have a deficit of 1,800,000,000 dollars and a prospective deficit of three to five billion? The one essential defense against communism is to keep this country financially and economically sound. If the President is unwilling to recommend more taxes for fear of creating a depression, then we must have reached the limit of our taxpaying ability and we ought not to start a new and unnecessary building project… .

But, finally, I believe there is only one real hope of peace in the world to come-an association of nations binding itself to abide by a law governing nations and administered by a court of legal justice. Such a judicial finding must not be subject to veto by any nation and there must be an international force to enforce the court’s decree. Such a plan can only succeed if the public opinion of the world is educated to insist on the enforcement of justice.

The United Nations looks in this direction but it can be improved and should be. This pact might have set up such a system between the nations of western Europe. It unfortunately did not do so. We should undertake to make it a model to which the United Nations may later conform. But as set up, it is a step backward-a military alliance of the old type where we have to come to each others’ assistance no matter who is to blame, and with ourselves the judges of the law.

Taft said that the U.S. had “the only atomic bomb”. This would remain the case only until 1949-08-29, when the Soviet Union successfully tested RDS-1 (“Joe-1”), its copy of the U.S. “Fat Man” plutonium bomb.


In small details he may have been wrong, but as an overall stance, he was spot on.

Notice his stance on economic solidarity. ?Do we have that today. I hardly think so. Notice his stance on going to war without Congressional blessing. That, too, has been dumped by the wayside. Congress itself has abrogated this power, giving the President the excuse for all manner of no-national-interest combat. Taft alludes to other means to address the issues; we have failed to employ any of them - except the CIA overthrowing legitimate national governments. ALL we seem to think about is war, or some version of it. With our national treasure - our youth. And note please that the majority of it comes from Red states.

He was right then, and he’s no less right now.


Let’s face it – CongressScum have abrogated all sorts of their responsibilities to the Administration and to bureaucrats, not just the serious obligation to declare war. And We the People recognize this, holding Congress in contempt so deep that even journalists and used car salesmen have a modicum more of respect. And then We the People keep re-electing those same CongressScum – for life, if they want it.

“Democracy” has been an obvious failure, degrading into Oligarchy, and now Gerontocracy. First thing that needs to go when we rebuild after the coming collapse is Universal Suffrage. It was a nice idea, but it has failed.


Democracy was always going to fail. The Founders knew that. It was subverting our Republic into a democracy that was our downfall. When we passed the 17th Amendment I believe, we doomed our nation to failure.


There were probably good reasons to pass the 17th Amendment at the time, as there might also be good reasons to abandon it now, with the pervasiveness of demagogic populism.


The excuse then is the same as the excuse now - ?why should you put the Senate in the hands of politicians. The civics class answer is obvious - because they will have a different perspective from “The People”. The Senate was always meant to be a check on the unbridled democracy of the People. Majority rule doesn’t work - then or now. But apparently not enough people knew any civics class lessons then - as now, with the noise of eliminating the electoral college, and turning our country over to the tyranny of NYC, Chicago, and LA (you can toss in Atlanta and Houston).


Further, one of the goals of the senate was explicitly to represent the States, as a counterpoise to federal power. As long as senators were appointed by state legislatures, they were beholden to legislators who would be motivated to defend their freedom to govern their states without meddling or mandates from the national government. As soon as senators were directly elected, they became much more creatures of the federal government, as they were the motivated to buy the popular vote within their states by enacting federal vote-buying schemes for the urban population.

Also, prior to the 17th amendment’s being adopted (and until the “one man, one vote” calamity of the 1960s), most state legislatures were apportioned to balance the power of populous urban centres and the productive countryside. This mean that when appointing senators, the pullulating human hives of iniquity did not outvote the yeoman farmers and merchants in the largest fraction of the area of a state.