24 MAY 1940, Page 10


AMERICAN public opinion is now feeling the fuller effects of total war, is realising its terrible consequences and some- thing of its meaning for the new world, and is certainly approaching the point when more substantial aid will be given the Allies. But when and how this aid will be forthcoming remains to be seen. Here are some of the visible consequences that have followed the fateful tenth of May.

First, people are quite as shocked and horrified at Nazi aggression in the Low Countries as might be expected, and they are awaiting with anxious prayers the progress of the Allied arms, as well as the success of efforts to avert direct aggression upon the British Isles.

Second, they are beginning to realise with new vividness what the defeat of the Allies would mean to this country—are beginning to measure the distance from the Cape Verde Islands to Brazil and to remember anew that the British Navy is the chief historic defence of the Monroe Doctrine.

Third, they are preparing to pour out new sums for national defence. President Roosevelt has just asked for an additional $900,000,000, raising our annual armament spending to over $2,400,000,000.

Fourth, they are increasingly ready to offer any sort of economic aid to the Allies, to speed up American aircraft factories, to facilitate financing.

Fifth, many of them would go farther and offer unstinted aid, balking only at an American expeditionary force.

Sixth, they are prepared to recognise that President Roosevelt has been right about European events for several years, and that with increasingly dark skies he may be the best President for the years ahead.

Seventh, reconstruction of the British Cabinet made the best possible impression here, although of course many Americans thought it was long overdue. The essential link necessary to evoke fullest American sympathy is now present: assurance that the Allies are doing their best to help themselves, under virile leadership.

These are only the major conclusions which are stirring now in American thinking. There is still, of course, much isolationism. But it is steadily changing its form. Aid to the Allies, only " by measures short of war," may before long be the defensive rallying-cry of the isolationists instead of the banner carried by Mr. Roosevelt in the van. It may be long before this nation makes any formal declaration. But economic aid of the broadest nature, concentrated upon supply of air- craft, is already assured. American sympathies will remove, it seems certain, many of the technical difficulties which hitherto have stood in the way of fullest economic aid. Formal repeal of the Johnson Act is not likely this summer, but the issue is unlikely to be vital in that time. And repeal of the Act, already discussed in Congress, may not finally be necessary. Govern- mental credits are not prohibited by the law, which simply forbids private flotation of loans.

Rank-and-file public opinion may be well ahead of political leadership. Congressmen are still rather fearful and baffled. They do not know how swiftly the people are progressing. But typical, I believe, of public thought is an experience I have just had. We printed today on the first page of the newspaper with which I am connected an account of a speech which—in one form or another—is becoming increasingly frequent. This time it happened to be given by Dr. Cross, head of the Department of German and Slavic Languages at Harvard University. Said Dr. Cross : " I am persuaded that the spirit of isolationism which dominates large sections of our country arises from a totally false appraisal of the dangers and issues involved, coupled with a disastrous overestimate of the protection offered by mere geographical distance. No one remains neutral when his neighbour's house is on fire, and with the shrinkage of distance before modern progress in mechanical and vocal communica- tions it is cheaper to avert a catastrophe than to await specifically the impact of those whims of disaster that no wall can bar.

" It is our duty at this time so to conduct ourselves by render- ing assistance in money and munitions, yes, and even in the last case in man-power if we must, that we may help in destroy- ing the Nazi menace, in establishing the just peace of which we were deprived 22 years ago, and in creating an economic system under which no nation may again be tempted to follow the false gods of vengeance and selfish nationalism.

" If Hitler's machine wins this war, we, as the richest, and even in our present economic difficulties the most prosperous, land, are the next logical goal for his fifth column, if not for actual physical attack."

These plain words, from one spokesman or another, are echoing across the American continent today. Soon after they were printed in our newspaper my telephone rang. It was a reader, a man, who is a typical " man-in-the-street " if there ever was one. " I want to thank you," he said, " for putting Dr. Cross's speech on page one. Those are exactly my sentiments."

So now at last the barrier to plain speaking has been bioken down in the United States—President Roosevelt put the case succinctly on the very day total war broke out when he said: " . . Three more independent nations have been cruelly in- vaded by force of arms . . . A continuance of these processes of arms presents a definite challenge to the continuation of the type of civilisation to which all of us in the three Americas have been accustomed. What has come about hs been caused by those who, if successful in their aim, will, we must now admit, enlarge their wild dream to encompass every human being and every mile of the earth's surface."

These words could not have been uttered by the President 24 hours earlier. American opinion, like American policy, is thus in the crucible of steady change. The ways and means of our increasing assistance to the Allies will have to be worked out. Perhaps nothing spectacular will happen in the immediate future. Congress is likely to adjourn, or at least to recess for possible re-summoning, by mid-June. Then the Republicans, and later the Democrats, must choose their presidential candi- dates, and the laborious process of electing a President must take place.

But events are in command here now. Fundamentally, which- ever presidential candidate is elected may not make much difference. The American people will react to world events similarly in either case. They will proceed ahead in their determination to prevent the effects of Nazi de-civilisation from spreading to this hemisphere, and in that process they will see increasingly the need of helping to ..:heck aggression in Europe.

One practical way of putting the problem is to recall that the U.S. fleet is now almost entirely in the Pacific, on the assumption that no aggression can cross the Atlantic. The assumption rests on nothing save the British Navy. Withdraw or greatly weaken that defence, and the American position changes radically. We would be forced to build virtually another whole fleet, although the one we have is probably not enough to prevent passage of the Dutch East Indies—our major sources of tin and rubber—from friendly to potentially unfriendly hands. South America, which we are pledged to defend, is 700 miles nearer Gibraltar than New York, which is 1,5oo miles nearer the Cape Verde Islands than to our naval bases in the Caribbean. Yes, we are meditating on stark facts these days.