It was hardly a surprise to students of American foreign policy that a statement condemning German "acts of wanton lawlessness" should have been forthcoming from the United States State Department. Healthy progress away from isolation and toward a constructive program of cooperation has been the theme of all Secretary Hull has done. But closer scrutiny of the high-sounding diplomatic terms in which the statement was couched; comparison with the method used in the now-famous frontier-on-the-Rhine statement; and understanding of the international temper--only temporarily one of apathetic resignation--into which it was injected, all point to Sumner Welles' statement as one of the most important single incidents since Munich.
Critics of the Munich settlement have had ample opportunity to crow in the last few days. Apparently, their worst fears are being realized. But there has been too much denunciation of Chamberlain and not enough realization of one fundamental fact: time is on the side of the democracies. If, last September, Germany and Italy had at least three times as many effective fighting planes as England and France combined; if Germany's monthly output was greater in almost the same proportion; and if, at the same time, England had plans to double her fleet and equal Germany in planes and military equipment by 1912--then Chamberlain did not "sell the British Empire for a cup of tea." Germany soon found that, because of the predominantly industrial character of the Sudetenland, her dependence on outside food resources had increased nearly 30 per cent.' Time is on the side of the democracies.
A different story is the acquisition of Bohemia, Moravia, and Slovakia. Here, Hitler has increased his agricultural resources. In addition, he has gained sufficient equipment for 40 divisions of the army, some ninety to one hundred millions in gold, and a substantial number of airplanes. On the other hand, however, the new territory must be policed, and this will involve expenditure of money, dispersion of forces, and internal weakening in general. Moreover, Hitler now has 1200 miles of territory on the Polish and Hungarian border which must be completely fortified. The bulk of the evidence does not indicate that time has ceased to be on the side of the democracies.
If so, then the American statement takes on added significance. Some force must be found partially to restrain Hitler,--to force him at least to move less quickly--or he will precipitate a war before England and France are ready. If he can be restrained until the military force of those countries, allied with the economic power of the United States, is far greater than his, then there will be no war. Without committing herself to a military alliance, the United States can supply that restraining force. It is in her own interest to do so, for any major war on the continent will surely involve her. President Roosevelt is moving in the direction of cooperation by drawing public opinion out of its traditional isolation, by plugging for repeal of the atrociously misnamed "Peace Act" of 1937, and, yesterday, by throwing the weight of the United States behind Britain and France even more emphatically than he did by the subsequently retracted "frontier statement." Those who hope for an eventual solution of European problems without another great war will heartily applaud his action.