The resolution adopted by the American Defense-Harvard Group in its open meeting Thursday advocates a gigantic bluff on the part of the United States Government. The Group would have the State Department enter the Asiatic poker game using battleships for full houses and airplanes as a straight flush. They would have our government guarantee absolutely to Japan that more moves southward in the direction of Britain's raw material lifeline will not be tolerated.
If such a move were taken and if Washington bet its stud hand against that of Tokyo, the wily Nipponese might examine his navy, take a quick look at ours, and murmuring a polite remark about honorable eternal peace, drop out till the next deal. On the other hand he might very likely sense that our face-down cards include a population sixty percent against war and a Congress which wrangles over every action. He might step into Singapore, which in this case is the pot, and demand a showdown. The next move would be up to us.
The Defense Group does not define its term "toleration." It does not admit that the actual use of armed force may well not be necessary if it is now made unmistakably clear to Japan that force will be used if necessary." Such a statement removes this proposition from the class of material aid. It is tantamount to a threat of war.
Threats of war, no matter how forcefully pronounced, should not be part of the diplomacy of a country which does not have the wish to back them up. This country has no desire to send its sailors and pilots to the Malay peninsula. What our policy must be is material aid and as much of it as possible. We must send planes and ships so that the British can maintain their precious line of supply. We must serve as an arsenal for the forces of democracy in the Far East as well as in Europe, but we must draw the line at men.
It is true that we Americans are born and brought up in a poker tradition and that we learn to bluff early in life. Gambling is fine with economic stakes, but in this case, our government's chips would be our lives. Let the State Department remember that Bret Harte found out Asiatics know some card tricks themselves.