To the Editor of the Crimson:
One year age at this time, I was privileged to publish in your paper a latter addressed to Harvard students on the conditions of the times. I stated that in this war as in the last war, the professors were going a bit mad. I declared that this was a weakness of the academic mind in war time--in America, exactly as in England and Germany. I pointed out that the officers and teachers of Harvard University a good majority of them, were leading the van of war hysteria, and wild emotion which ill became what is accepted as trained intellgence. I bade the students in these hectic times not to take their professors too seriously, but to regard their words and deeds with a healthy skepticism. The college faculties were almost unanimously wrong in the last war, and are in all probability equally wrong in this war.
The year which has passed since I wrote this letter has confirmed practically everything that I said. During this period the administration in Washington has conducted a reckless campaign to the end of getting this country into the European war. We have been told, without any evidence, that America stands in greater danger today that at any previous time in her century and a half of history we have been warned, in bald assertion, that Britain was our first Ine of defense against the German, and that if, Britain fell, Hitter would straightway be on our shores. We have been startled with declarations, unsustained by any facts, that in 30 or 60 days we would face the hour of supreme crisis--only to see the days pass and no crisis appear at all. We have been told, at regular intervals, when popular excitement seemed to be dying down, that our danger was far more serious than six months or a year ago--though there has never been any moment half so perilous as that when Dunkirk fell. The situation since then has steadily improved. The talk these last 12 months has been more like the baying of frightened dogs than the discussion of reasonable men. And loud in the pack have been members of the Harvard Faculty. They have raved, and raged, and roared, as though the enemy were hammering at our very gates. If they seem now to be getting a little tamer it is not because they are more sensible, but rather because there is a limit to energy even of the hysterical type.
It may be well to look for a moment at this campaign for intervention as based upon the postulate of imminent peril to this country from what is going on in Europe.
The first emphasis has been upon the danger of bombing. It is true that there has been no bombing in Europe ever any distance even remotely comparable to the span of the Atlantic ocean. But it has been easy to picture bombers as flying over our cities--and exciting to appoint fire-wardens, organize defense corps, and in general put or communities, large and small, in a state of readiness for blitzkreig. Now comes an announcement from Lloyd's London, the final authority on the element of chance in this world, that they are ready to give insurance against damage in the bombing of New York, Washington, Boston, or other American cities, at odds of 1000 to 1. Such odds, of course, might just as well be 1,000,000 to 1. They mean that the bombing of this country lies not even remotely within the realm of reasonable possibility.
The next scare has had to do with the invasion of America by Hitler's army. After destroying England and capturing the English feet, the Nazi conqueror was to come over here and land his legions on our shores. Was there ever anything in that Listen in the testimony of an expert on the subject Lieut, Col. Thomas R. Phillips of the U. S. Army General Staff, as presented in an article published in "Army Ordinance," the official organ of the Army Ordnance Association! Pointing out that the modern bombing-plane has made it possible for this country to insure not only its own territory from, invasion, but "the impregnability of all North and South America," Colonel Phillips continues:
"Even if the United States had no harbor defenses, it would be impregnable to invasion. And this still would be true if our navy were inferior to that of an invading power. Land-based air power has made United States impregnable to a sea-borne invasion."
The last step in driving the people into the panic already possessing the souls of the professors has been to declare that, even if not bombed or invaded, America would be economically ruined by a Hitler dominated world. Is there any truth in this? Note the reply to this charge by three scholars who have managed to keep their heads! In the "Progressive" (August 9th) there appeared a report of a University of Chicago Round Table radio discussion of this subject, participarted in by Stuart Chase, noted author and economist, Dr. Peter Drucker, professor of economics at Sara Lawrence College, and Dr. Neil H. Jacoby, associate professor of finance at the Univ. of Chicago. These men agreed together that the United States could "manage without any real problem" any economic effects of a Hitler victory in Europe. Whatever happens in Europe, said these authorities, we Americans "have nothing to fear economically."
"Why the panic," queries Start Chase. No reason at all! The campaign for intervention, as led by the politicians and the professor, has all been based on senseless fear. There has been, and is now, no danger to this country in this war. That is, to our security as a nation and our integrity as a democracy! We are "impregnable" to attack, and need therefore only to stay out to be safe.
But there is a reason for intervention--a reason for this pre-war campaign which has been vexing us for an entire year! It lies in the fact that the imperialistic interests of this country are coincident with the imperialistic interests of the British Empire, and those who profit from these interests want them protected. We shall know some day that his war is an imperialistic war. Those of us who are old enough to have experienced the last war, remember how that war, like this war was enshrouded in noble talk about democracy, and liberty, and saving civilization, and ending war. There was never anything in that talk! We got into the last war for purely imperialistic reasons. And if we get into this war now, it will be for the same reasons.
The scholars and the teachers ought to know these facts. Some of them do. President Hutchins, of the University of Chicago, has shown conclusively how baseless is the call to enter this war to save our democracy from destruction, and how certainly from destruction, and how certainly this destruction will come if we do enter the war. President MacCracken of Vassar College, has again and made clear the imperialistic character of the European war, and how fatal to every higher interests of the land will be our entrance into it. Other educational leaders, some at Harvard, have spoken in this same way. But the overwhelming majority of professors at Harvard and elsewhere, have gone all but crazy. Those whom we should trust the most as servants of truth are the ones who are leading us most widely and wildly astray. What a spectacle!
Meanwhile, through all this panic-y year, the students on the whole have remained sane and sober. Their level-headed composure has driven some of the professors into a veritable frenzy. They forget, these professors, that war is serious business for the young--that it wrecks their lives while the oldsters stay safely at home and continue uninterruptedly their careers. They forget also that the now generation have been disillusioned about war, while the old generation are still nursing the fantasies and fables in which they were reared years ago. But they are doing their best to break down the peace morale of the students, as of the public at large, and thus to repeat the history of 1941-1918.
So I beg you boys to stand firm. Don't let yourselves be fooled. Don't let yourselves be destroyed. We need you to save this nation, and to build in the future the "brave new world." If you are engulfed in the devouring flood of arms, swept away in blood as the youth of Europe are being swept away, then is our last hope gone. So for our sakes as well as yours, for the sake of the world and all that it holds for the future of the race, keep your sanity, preserve your reason, cling fast to peace. John Haynes Holmes '02, S.T. B. '04