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Scrupulously careful to avoid contaminating influences, the United States has, since the beginning of its history, worshipped the myth of isolation and dreamed the dream of neutrality. For the infant nation of Washington's time, this policy was a wise one; for present day America it is utter nonsense. The attitude that America can cut herself off from the world, serenely ignoring the danger of a major war, has been aptly termed her "infant psychosis."
The price necessary for complete neutrality in the event of another 1914 is one which the United States would never pay. Extensive regimentation of national life, possible under the emotional stress of actual warfare, would never be possible simply to avoid war. Too many private toes would be trod on, too much of the lucrative war-time profits would be sacrificed, too extensive and too powerful a bureaucracy would be necessary, for such regimentation to be politically possible.
Specifically, as summarized by the National Economic and Social Planning Organization, it would be necessary during the war not only to limit all trade to peace-time levels and abandon American shipping (except for narrowly defined neutral zones), but also to control rigidly the credit and finance of the country. Moreover, to keep our economic system from becoming geared to a war-time pitch, with the inflation this entails, it would be necessary to control industrial and agricultural production and to fix all prices. More than this, the government would have to begin even now, in peace-time, to build up a surplus of import raw materials as reserve against war scarcity.
Such a program is inconceivable. Simply to state it is to demonstrate its impossibility. Add to this the problem of war psychology, which many thinkers consider insoluble in itself, and there remains little hope that the United States could remain neutral in the event of a major war.
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