Do not read the State Department's White Paper, "Peace and War," with the expectancy that American foreign policy during the thirties can be halocd or blessed. Nothing could be farther from the truth, the truth made so painfully clear by page after page of very factual historical exposition. In precise chronological order, the department's analysts have recorded the breakdown of international morality during that distressed decade, and have attempted to weave some sort of cohesive web from the fragments of democratic resistance to this collapse.
Little new or revealing evidence of those ten tense years is placed before the observer; the events appear in much the same light that illumined them in 1932 or '33. The Japanese betrayal of the Kellogg-Brian compact began the downhill course. Following the Manchurian invasion, Secretary Stimson foresaw repetition of the same form of lawlessness, and American policy began to take shape. By protest and testimonial, American, and later, allied statesmen have been excoriating totalitarian aggression ever since. The rise of Hitler brought warnings from Washington, the invasion of Ethiopia drew pleas for "resumption of international responsibility." As the Rhineland, Austria, Sudeten, and Czechoslovakia fell in simple order, the aggrandizement of Hitler drew outraged warnings from Washington. And in the Far East, we hurled verbal brickbats at Japanese participation in the "China Incident," warned Japan, threatened Japan, re-warned Japan, all to no avail.
As Secretary Hull maintains, the thesis behind our diplomacy was of dual nature. One element of American influence was to build up resistance to aggression, while another was to cement the based for a sort of durable peace. Unwittingly, the complete record only outlines the neutralization of one effort by the other, with American moral, physical and political unpreparedness as the result. For while Hull and the New Deal coterie of interventionists were stiffening opposition to aggression, either by promise or threat, Congress was busy hamstringing real American intervention by Neutrality Acts and refusals of any sort of joint action. Disguised as a peace precaution, isolation took firm hold on Capital Hill, preventing economic action against Japan in 1932 and '37, Italy in 1935, and Germany up until Lend-Lease. The words "Action denied by Congress" appear in monotonous frequency in "Peace and War," serving as grim reminders of lost opportunities.
With such deep cleavage in policy, it is no wonder that America ended the ten year period engaged, in a war for which she was woefully unprepared. But in the final analysis, the entire lack of unity, as explained by the embracing foreword, was based on the gap between the foresight of the Executive and the relative caution of popular opinion. As totalitarian brutality slowly converted the American public and molded it behind its Administration, American diplomacy began to ring with the note of determination. Finally, following Pearl Harbor, isolationism, in its original shape, died, and "Peace and War" is able to conclude with the proud conclusion that the country is finally united in face of the common enemy.