For all those who feel that the United States should adopt a more sincere and effective neutrality program than the present one, the words of Bernard Baruch upon his return to the country a few days ago have a timely and impressive tone.
It seems inevitable that in the event of a European was this country will merely give up its trade in armaments but will rigidly insist upon maintaining all other commerce with the belligerent nations. With unexpected bluntness Mr. Baruch plunged his fist right through this frail platform in a candid exhortation for genuine neutrality. Speaking as one who perhaps knows more about war economy than any other man, President Wilson's head of the War Industries Board declared, "There isn't no such animal as non-war material."
The fine purpose of the Neutrality Act will indeed be thwarted if the government's present attitude is allowed to crystallize into national policy. To carry on trade in commodities, which, after all, are only one degree removed from armaments, promises to embroil the United States in foreign conflicts almost as easily as if there were no embargo at all. In case of a blockade it is important to the blockaders that metals, textiles, and foodstuffs be kept from the closed port as machine guns and explosives themselves.
Aside from the danger of such a policy, its moral hypocrisy shows itself equally as clear. Half the purpose of the neutrality legislation was to keep this country totally aloof and detached from the belligerent nations. Such a moral condemnation of war and all it stands for can never be accomplished until all intercourse whatsoever is forbidden.
Such a sham as the government is planning to carry out deceives no one. Senator Nye and his associates had a nobler purpose in their fight for neutrality than to enable the United States to pay lip service to peace while reaping profits from commerce with the belligerents. As it becomes increasingly clear that Europe is moving toward war the truth must be recognized that the embargo cannot go too far. Even if the moral standpoint can be disregarded, the practical one cannot. The embargo on armaments is a good beginning, nothing more. To make neutrality a fact as well as a word all commerce with a nation at war, whether in commodities, money, or food must be quickly and vigorously stopped.