Borne along on the tide of German victory in Holland, swelling ever larger as the marching hordes spread and grow, the spirit of intervention is upon us. "The Allies are faltering," it cries. "America must do something." Well, what shall we do? What can we do?
To answer those questions, we need first of all to weight war and its consequences against peace and its possibilities.
We must recognize that, if the United States declares war, we will be adding millions of men to the present carnage; we will pour down the drain countless wealth and resources; we will devote all our strength and attention to an external struggle, and risk the consequences internally; we will be opening the doors to a fascism which, drawing on the unemployed and others in America who are not participating in the benefits of our democracy, and feeding on the new spirit of force which war brings with it, may destroy the very freedom which interventionists would have us to go abroad to defend. That is the war-side of the scales.
On the other hand, we can stay at peace. We can make that peace not a period of lethargy and waiting-for-the-wolf, but one of active progress; we can prevent the rise of a Fifth Column of dissatisfied citizens by extending democracy to every American, and by adapting our social and economic systems to meet the needs of a free industrial America as they have never yet been met; we can strengthen our defensive arms--developing the navy, the air force, anti aircraft protection, and a reserve of needed minerals and materials through stock piling-- preparing to defend this country and this hemisphere if at any future time that becomes necessary; we can arm in this way, confident that defensive arming involves no such militarization of our civil life as is entailed in preparing for offense, with its huge conscript army and conscript economic life; and we can cultivate and improve our relations with Latin America, making trade and friendship the watchwords, continuing to replace north American imperialism with Pan American cooperation. This is the peace-side of the balance.
Is that the whole picture, demand the interventionists? Granted that war is undesirable and peace desirable in the abstract, they say, is there not another more important consideration? What if Germany wins the war? Where will America be then?
It is possible that Germany may win, to be sure. Its victory may be a short, quick success, or one which follows a long and protracted struggle.
If the former is the case, if the Allies this very minute are succumbing before a German onslaught which is to reach victory in a few months or less, then America is helpless to prevent it. For our forces as they now stand are defensive. We are already doing all we can by shipping planes, as fast as possible, under the cash-and-carry clause to the Allies. Our fleet will not help, for the British have theirs almost intact. What they could use, of course, is a million men. But our nation does not have them ready to offer immediately. They are neither trained nor equipped. So, if we postulate a quick German victory over the Allies as in the offing, then America's joining those Allies will do no good.
If on the other hand a long-drawn-out victory by Germany over the Allies is expected, what should America do then? It is generally conceded that time is on the side of the Allies; but allowing that Germany might win after an extended struggle, such a struggle would exhaust and debilitate the victor as well as the vanquished. This enervated Germany would hardly be a threat to the Americas: after its wearying death-grapple with England and France, it would have to bring the other countries of Europe to a state of subjection and non-resistance, entrench its continental position enough to allow it to turn its eyes to this hemisphere, avoid war with Italy and Russia, and then attack South America. Meanwhile the United States would have had time and to spare, in which to make this hemisphere impregnable.
Given a choice between on the one hand the sure and immediate horrors and costs of war, to ourselves as individuals and to our nation as a social democracy, and on the other hand the possibility of a German victory and some future threat to the United States as a results, we choose the former alternative. And we think that there stands with us the vast army of Americans.