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Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace

Tags U.S. HistoryWar and Foreign PolicyWorld History

12/22/2007Harry Elmer Barnes
  1. Revisionism and the Historical Blackout
  2. The United States and the Road to War in Europe
  3. Roosevelt Is Frustrated in Europe
  4. How American Policy toward Japan Contributed to War in the Pacific
  5. Japanese-American Relations, 1921–1941
  1. The Actual Road to Pearl Harbor
  2. The Pearl Harbor Investigations
  3. The Bankcruptcy of a Policy
  4. American Foreign Policy in the Light of National Interest at the Mid-Century

[In 1947, historian Charles Beard told Harry Elmer Barnes that the foreign policy of Presidents Roosevelt and Truman could best be described by the phrase "perpetual war for perpetual peace." Barnes used the phrase as the title of his 1953 collection of essays by the leading revisionist historians of the era. This article is excerpted from the final chapter.]


Summary and Conclusions

I charge that the articulate publicists of our country, by their semi-hysterical words in print and speech in which they champion extremes of diplomatic and military policy, are driving us rapidly into a war of unlimited and unattainable objectives which will bring on a gigantic catastrophe of ruin and revolution at home and abroad….

By articulate publicists I mean those speakers and writers ranging from editors, novelists, magazine writers, columnists, dramatists, radio writers, lecturers, college professors, and educators, to senators and other elected officials, cabinet members, political leaders and presidents. When what they write and talk about becomes a united theme of agreement, action follows as certainly as butter follows the churning of sour cream….

After fighting two world wars within a generation to defend democracy and freedom, with no result other than to see those ideals recede throughout the world, we shall be blind if we do not understand that a third such war, fought for equally unlimited and unattainable objectives, will end in one of the great catastrophes of history. For us to imagine that we can fight such a war without exhausting ourselves and destroying much of the good faith required for the functioning of democracy is to indulge in the same wishful thinking that twice has proved our political undoing.

— WILLIAM R. MATHEWS, Editor, Arizona Daily Star

With profit we may now briefly review the main facts and conclusions to which we are led by the material in the preceding chapters.PDF

1 - Revisionism and the Historical Blackout

The first chapter, by the editor, indicates how two world wars, and especially the needless American entry therein, have converted the libertarian American dream of pre-1914 days into a nightmare of fear, regimentation, destruction, insecurity, inflation, and ultimate insolvency.

Revisionism, which means no more than the establishment of historical truth, when applied to the First World War, revealed the mistakes in our earlier interpretation of the causes and merits of that conflict, the folly of our entering it, and the disastrous results which followed. Revisionism helped us to return to national sanity, to the continentalism and peace of the Harding-Coolidge-Hoover administrations, and to the neutrality legislation of the first administration of Roosevelt.

There is now a far more determined and ruthless resistance to revisionism, as applied to the Second World War, than there was in the 1920s when revisionists dealt with the conflict which began in 1914. This is due to the fact that the United States was much more directly involved in the diplomacy which led to the Second World War. The intense hostility to revisionism is prompted by the dictates of political expediency; by the hostility of special pressure groups interested in the promotion of war hysteria; by our indoctrination, for a decade and a half, with globaloney; and by the attitude of those with a vested professional and personal interest in upholding the official mythology expounded by the historians and social scientists who participated in great numbers in the propaganda and allied activities of the government during the war epoch.

The methods followed by the opponents of revisionism fall mainly into these modes of operation:

  1. denying revisionist historians access to public documents;
  2. intimidating publishers who might otherwise be willing to print revisionist materials;
  3. ignoring or smearing revisionist books and articles; and
  4. smearing and otherwise seeking to intimidate revisionist authors.

To counter the progress of revisionism still further, many free and private historians voluntarily perpetuate the popular fictions relative to the Second World War. They have either succumbed to globaloney or have a vested interest in sustaining the fictions. Then we have a considerable number of "court historians," who operate in a quasi-official manner and who are given full access to official documents on the tacit understanding that their books will defend the official version of events. Finally, we have an ever-growing body of official historians connected with the military establishment and executive departments who are paid to write history as their employers prescribe. This is a long step toward the official falsification of documents portrayed by George Orwell in his classic work, Nineteen Eighty-Four.

This antirevisionist historical bias has destroyed all semblance of accuracy in recent world history, and it gravely distorts the history of a more remote past by drawing false analogies with a fictitious recent past and present and by pointing up strained and mistaken causal relationships. In this way the antirevisionist historians are hurrying us along the path to the conditions of the "Nineteen Eighty-Four" system in which even the very concept of history is taboo and outlawed, because there must be no knowledge of the past against which existing mistakes and miseries can be tested and condemned.

2 - The United States and the Road to War in Europe

The second chapter, by Dr. Tansill, provides a comprehensive survey of European diplomacy and international relations between the two World Wars and of the extent and results of American participation in international affairs during this era.

It is made clear how the Allied betrayal of President Wilson's Fourteen Points and the terms of the Armistice of November 11, 1918, laid the basis for the Second World War. This became ever more likely when the League of Nations failed to use its power to rectify the fatal terms of the vindictive postwar treaties. These treaties created and nourished German and Austrian resentment and contributed crucially to the ultimate insolvency of these countries and to the resulting rise of totalitarianism. There were no substantial efforts made to revise the injustices done to Germany and Austria through negotiation with the peaceful — and actually peace-loving — republican leaders of these countries. The result was the rise of Hitler to power and the revision of the treaties by Nazi craftiness, bluff, and force. What Hitler actually did in the way of remedying the situation was not especially blameworthy; it was the methods he employed which, understandably, were shocking to many. But Hitler and his methods were, together, the penalty paid for fifteen years of Allied vindictiveness and folly. Professor Tansill lists and describes in sufficient detail the outstanding errors and injustices of the Treaty of Versailles and what came as its aftermath.

Aside from the action of the United States, which did sink or scuttle a number of serviceable ships (or others in construction) and cut down its army to a skeleton force, dishonesty, quibbling, delay, and reluctance characterized the whole fraudulent disarmament movement from 1920 to the mid-1930s. German rearmament was sharply restricted by the postwar settlement, but the European Allies failed to disarm in accordance with their agreement. Indeed, they proceeded to build up their armament above the 1914 level. Ultimately Hitler challenged the whole farce, announced the rearmament of Germany in defiance of Versailles, and the armament race took on new and enlarged proportions. But the relative extent of Nazi rearmament before 1939 was greatly exaggerated in the anti-Nazi propaganda. It did not exceed that of Britain and France.

The fumbling and stupidity of most Allied diplomats, but predominantly of Anthony Eden, broke down the system of collective security, for what it was worth, and opened the door to the unilateral moves of Hitler and Mussolini which hastened the Second World War. Baldwin and Chamberlain, in England, acquiesced in Hitler's violations of the Treaty of Versailles because they relied on Hitler to act as a checkmate to the menace of Soviet Russia to the British Empire. On the eve of attaining striking success with this program, British diplomacy made a sudden and rather inexplicable about-face in the winter and spring of 1939. After accepting, without serious objection, Hitler's more drastic moves and aggressions for some four years, Britain and France made war on Germany in protest against the most restrained and justifiable demand of Hitler's prewar career. That they did so was the result of pressure by Churchill and the Tory war group in England, by the British Labor party, and by President Roosevelt.

While the diplomacy of the Harding-Coolidge-Hoover administrations was opposed to the harsh postwar treaties, it did little to force any modification of them. Any attempt to do so was rendered the more difficult because the United States remained out of the League of Nations and made a separate treaty with Germany. The Dawes and Young plans served only to postpone the ultimate collapse of the reparations travesty; the impasse was finally recognized and terminated by President Hoover. American diplomacy under President Roosevelt failed to exercise a moderating influence on either Europe or Hitler.

American hostility toward Germany increased apace when Hitler came to power. This was a result of his crushing of liberalism and parliamentary government and of his persecution of the Jews. Hostility was reflected in our diplomacy which, in time, abandoned even the pretense of ordinary diplomatic courtesy and intercourse. Whatever William E. Dodd's great merits as a historian and teacher, he was an incredibly bad choice as ambassador to Nazi Germany — not unlike what it would have been if Hitler had appointed an ardent National Socialist ideologist as Nazi ambassador to the United States. The appointment of Dodd made German-American diplomatic relations all the more difficult and strained, and Dodd's successors did little to improve the situation.

At the time of the Munich episode in 1938, President Roosevelt ostensibly favored the British policy of appeasing Hitler. Indeed, his communications to the European leaders involved may well have been the deciding factor in inducing Britain and France to decline to meet Hitler's threat by test of arms in 1938. But, from his discussions with American officials, especially General Henry H. Arnold, it is evident that Roosevelt regarded Munich as the prelude to war rather than assuring, as Chamberlain appears to have hoped, "peace in our time." Yet Roosevelt was not in favor of war in 1938, for the situation then might well have been such that Hitler would have been defeated too rapidly to have permitted American entry into the conflict. The Czechs had a large and well-equipped army, and Russia was eager to collaborate in a war to check Hitler. By the summer of 1939 the situation had vastly changed. The Czech army was no more and Russia had signed a treaty with Nazi Germany. If war broke out under these conditions, it was likely to be a long one, which would afford Mr. Roosevelt plenty of time to maneuver the United States into the fighting.

There seems little doubt that Mr. Roosevelt had decided to enter a European war, if possible, even before war broke out at the beginning of September 1939. The German White Paper (captured Polish documents) and even the censored Forrestal Diaries confirm this conviction. What more definite assurances he may have given to Anthony Eden in December 1938 and to King George VI in June 1939 remain a secret to this day.

3 - Roosevelt Is Frustrated in Europe

The third chapter, by Dr. Sanborn, tells the story of President Roosevelt's unneutral conduct relative to the European War and of his unsuccessful efforts to enter the war directly through the European front door.

Dr. Sanborn reviews briefly the record of our anti-German diplomacy, especially from the date of the Chicago Bridge speech of October 5, 1937, urging the quarantine of aggressors. He shows that Roosevelt's pressure for peace at the time of Munich, in the autumn of 1938, was a decisive factor in preventing the checking of Hitler when this might have been accomplished by force because of the overwhelming odds against the Nazi leader. On April 14, 1939, Roosevelt made a speech calculated to enrage Hitler and Mussolini by comparing their methods to those of the Huns and Vandals. Through Ambassadors William C. Bullitt, Joseph P. Kennedy, and others, he put pressure on the Poles to stand firm against any German demands and on the British and French vigorously to support such a Polish policy. Such pacific communications as Roosevelt sent to Europe on the eve of war in August 1939, were obviously only for the record, similar to his telegram to the Japanese Emperor on December 7, 1941.

Once war broke out in September 1939, President Roosevelt dropped all semblance of neutrality, his policy thus standing in sharp contrast to that of President Wilson in 1914. Wilson, at the outset of the First World War, made a sincere effort to maintain neutrality and urged the nation to be neutral in both thought and action. Roosevelt moved for abrogation of our neutrality legislation even before the outbreak of war. He devoted himself to aid for Britain and France and opposed any movements designed to bring peace after the end of the Polish war. The full extent of his commitments to Britain will not be known until the nearly 2,000 secret communications between him and Prime Minister Churchill are revealed to scholars. Mr. Churchill has told us that most of the important diplomatic business between the two countries from 1939 to Pearl Harbor was carried on in these secret messages (the so-called "Kent Documents"). But an impressive record of unneutrality can be assembled without these documents.

This unneutrality was stepped up after the fall of France and the British retreat from Dunkirk. Mr. Roosevelt's attitude was then well expressed in his famous "dagger in the back" address at the University of Virginia in June 1940. Unneutral action amounting to acts of war began with the shipment of vast quantities of munitions to Britain after Dunkirk. By October 1940, some 970,000 Enfield rifles, 200,000 revolvers, 87,500 machine guns, and over 1,200 pieces of artillery had been sent to Britain. President Roosevelt also began that stripping of our air defenses, for the benefit of Britain, which led to the resignation of Secretary of War Harry H. Woodring. New planes were to be allocated at the ratio of nineteen for the United States to fourteen for Britain. The famous destroyer deal was put through in September 1940, an action which government lawyers admitted put us into the war both legally and morally. The peacetime Selective Service Act, the first in our history, was also passed in September 1940. That President Roosevelt had decided to fight out the war at the side of Britain by the end of 1940 was fully revealed by Harry Hopkins to Churchill at a luncheon on January 11, 1941, when Hopkins told Churchill, "The President is determined that we shall win the war together. Make no mistake about it." To facilitate further plans for this joint conflict, top Army and Navy experts of the United States and Britain met in highly secret conferences in Washington from January to March 1941. At the end of these sessions, Admiral Harold R. Stark wrote to his fleet commanders that "The question of our entry into the war now seems to be when, and not whether."

At a supplementary conference in Singapore in April 1941, it was agreed that our forces would attack the Japanese if the latter passed a certain designated point in the Pacific, even if they did not attack American ships or territory. This was a flagrant defiance of President Roosevelt's promise to the American people that we would not enter any war unless we were attacked.

Despite all this, President Roosevelt assured the American populace that all aid given to Britain was "short of war" and was designed to keep war from our shores. It was under this assumption that the Lend-Lease Act was pushed through Congress. But no sooner had the act been passed than President Roosevelt set in action the convoying policy which was a thinly veiled effort to lure Germany into a much-desired act of war. The basis for the convoying program had been laid as early as January 1941, and it actively began in April 1941, though there were public denials by President Roosevelt, Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox, and others. In spite of such grossly misinterpreted episodes on the Atlantic in connection with convoying as those of the Robin Moor, the Greer, the Kearny, and the Reuben James, neither Germany nor Italy picked up the gage of battle. Not even President Roosevelt's war speech of September 11, 1941, denouncing "Nazi rattlesnakes" and announcing the policy of "shooting on sight" in the Atlantic, could lure Germany into war.

By the late summer of 1941 Messrs. Roosevelt and Churchill had decided that it might be impossible for the United States to enter the war by the European front door, and in August 1941, they met off the coast of Newfoundland to devise a way whereby Roosevelt could force America into war through the back door of the Far East by a manipulation of Japanese-American relations. By that time it was only a question of when and how. It was well known that war with Japan had been assured by the embargo and by the "freezing" orders of July 1941 — unless the United States was willing to lift these restrictions, which was something neither Roosevelt nor Hull ever remotely considered doing.

4 - How American Policy toward Japan Contributed to War in the Pacific

The fourth chapter, by Dr. Neumann, offers a broad survey of American policy toward Japan in the decade preceding Pearl Harbor. Essentially it was the same hostile policy developed by Stimson during the latter part of the Hoover administration. It was rejected by President Hoover but was adopted and continued by Roosevelt.

Japanese conduct in Asiatic affairs was dictated by two main objectives:

  1. expansion to gain living room for the growing population of a small and scantily endowed island empire, to secure raw materials, and to obtain needed markets; and
  2. the aspiration to attain the status and rights of a major power, without which Japan would be unable successfully to compete with Western imperialism.

The resulting policy, increasingly sharpened by a growing recognition of Russian ambitions and advances in the Far East, was conducted as in other countries, at times by wise and moderate statesmen and at others by bellicose chauvinists. But the United States rarely made any effort to encourage and aid the Japanese moderates. Instead, American leaders usually rejected all friendly overtures.

The policy of the Roosevelt administration was based upon the idea that the maintenance of the "Open Door" in China and of Chinese territorial integrity was more important to us than friendship with Japan. The Open Door and Chinese integrity were regarded as a vital national interest of the United States. In addition to this, the Roosevelt policy held that our material interest in China was of crucial importance to this country. This policy was maintained despite the fact that our economic stake in Japan — investments and markets — was vastly greater than that in China and might be lost entirely as the result of an active anti-Japanese policy.

Roosevelt quickly scrapped the Hoover policy toward the Far East and discussed war with Japan in his earliest cabinet meetings. But he was rebuffed by his cabinet and by the neutrality sentiment in Congress and throughout the country. So, as an enthusiastic disciple of Admiral Alfred T. Mahan, he contented himself for the time being with an unprecedented peacetime expansion of our naval forces, beginning with the allocation of N.R.A. funds for that purpose in June 1933. He chose, as Secretary of the Navy, Claude A. Swanson, another ardent navalist.

The Japanese were, naturally and justifiably, alarmed because they correctly discerned that the Roosevelt naval expansion was aimed directly and deliberately at them. The United States, with British support, refused to modify the 5-5-3 naval ratio laid down at the Washington Disarmament Conference of 1920–21. Thereupon Japan withdrew from the London Naval Disarmament Conference of 1935–36, but not before she had proposed a drastic cut in all naval tonnage which would have made impossible any naval war in the Pacific.

President Roosevelt laid plans for a naval blockade of Japan in 1937, but the adverse popular reaction to his quarantine speech of October 5 led to the abandonment of the project for the moment. In 1938 a new plan for naval war against Japan was formulated in a preliminary way, and was gradually expanded until the joint staff conferences in Washington in January–March 1941, which, together with the Singapore agreement in April, committed us to make war upon Japan if she passed a given point in the Pacific, even though there was no attack on American ships or territory. Roosevelt was personally responsible for the location of our Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, in which move he disregarded the advice of Admirals Richardson and Stark. The State Department backed Roosevelt and Richardson was relieved of his command.

It was generally recognized by Washington authorities that the program for the economic strangulation of Japan, culminating in the sweeping embargo of July 1941, would bring on war. The naval authorities were especially conscious of this and advised against it because they did not feel that we were prepared, as yet, for a naval war. Japan, given the alternative of economic starvation or war, chose to fight, just as Roosevelt and Hull expected and hoped she would do.

Judged by the definitive test of results, the Japanese policy pursued by Roosevelt, Stimson, and Hull has proved a tragic and costly mistake. Russia, a far stronger power, has taken over Japan's Far Eastern hegemony. The Open Door is now closed tight, and for an indefinite period. The Far East is controlled by forces and powers which are determined, finally, to eject all westerners. Japan has been removed as a checkmate to Russian expansion and has become a costly dependent of the United States. China is in the hands of Communists, and war rather than peace afflicts Asia.

5 - Japanese-American Relations, 1921–1941; The Pacific Back Road to War

In the fifth chapter, Dr. Tansill gives us a succinct and frank account of the manner in which President Roosevelt, even before his inauguration, adopted the bellicose Stimson doctrine concerning the Far East and Japan, consistently rejected all Japanese peace overtures from 1933 to the end of 1941, and ultimately succeeded in needling the Japanese into the decision to attack our forces at Pearl Harbor, their only alternative to economic strangulation.

Mr. Stimson, when Secretary of State under President Hoover, had been much annoyed by Japanese operations on the mainland of Asia while remaining singularly unmoved by Soviet aggression and expansion from another direction. He had sought to apply sanctions against Japanese movements in Manchuria, but had been checked in this drastic move by President Hoover. Through the intermediary efforts of Felix Frankfurter, an old associate of Stimson, the latter had no difficulty in selling his Far Eastern and Japanese policy to President-elect Roosevelt at a conference at Hyde Park on January 9, 1933. Neither Stimson nor Roosevelt reckoned seriously with the menace of Russian advances in the Far East, which were almost solely restrained by Japan. Our Japanese policy under President Roosevelt, from this time until the attack on Pearl Harbor, was based upon a curious compound of anti-Japanese and unrealistic diplomatic policies and principles.

President Roosevelt's personal attitude toward Japan had no realistic basis in historical or economic knowledge. It was purely sentimental and mystical, founded primarily on the fact that some of his ancestors had made money trading with China and also on the fantastic stories about aggressive Japanese programs for the future which had been told to him by a "Japanese schoolboy" who had been a fellow student at Harvard shortly after the turn of the century. Secretary Hull was equally innocent of the history of the Far East — indeed, of most history of any kind — and his hostile attitude toward Japan was framed against the background of his pharisaical international idealism which bore little or no relationship to the actual history of public affairs and the relations between nations. The remaining item in the compound was the violent prejudice against Japan held by Mr. Stimson, who became Secretary of War in the summer of 1940, and by Stanley K. Hornbeck, the State Department adviser on Far Eastern affairs. Against this amalgam of anti-Japanese feelings the conciliatory and statesmanlike efforts of Messrs. Joseph C. Grew and Eugene H. Dooman in the American Embassy at Tokyo could make little headway. This anti-Japanese and pro-Chinese policy had little or no relation to the economic realities of the situation, though the administration frequently appealed to an alleged economic interest to justify its anti-Japanese policy. Our economic interests in Japan vastly outweighed those in China.

Dr. Tansill gives us a realistic account of the Japanese movements on the mainland of Asia from 1931 to 1941. This contrasts markedly with the biased pro-Chinese and anti-Japanese interpretation which has commonly been accepted and which ignores the Soviet threats and advances in the Far East during this decade. He shows how Roosevelt and Hull rejected the pacific overtures by the Japanese liberals and moderates, even to the extent of proposed conferences between Japanese and American leaders. After 1937, the generally hostile attitude toward Japan was sharpened and hardened by President Roosevelt's decision to turn to armament and war as the most successful manner of prolonging his political tenure.

In spite of persistent American diplomatic hostility, the Japanese leaders, from considerations of sheer self-interest, had decided by the end of the year 1940 to seek a peaceful modus vivendi with the United States, even being willing to retire from the Asian mainland outside of Manchuria if they were given some face-saving formula. Messrs. Grew and Dooman, in Tokyo, warmly urged Roosevelt and Hull to collaborate in this effort to promote general Far Eastern peace. But the proposals of both the Japanese and of our Tokyo diplomats were rejected at every turn by Roosevelt and Hull. Rather, the Stimson doctrine was revived and applied even more thoroughly and relentlessly.

The embargo on Japanese trade and the freezing of Japanese assets in July 1941 were recognized by Mr. Roosevelt and his advisers as acts which would inevitably lead to war. The most feasible manner of arranging for the coming of such a war was discussed by Roosevelt and Churchill at their meeting off the coast of Newfoundland in August 1941. As soon as he returned from this conference, Roosevelt sent for Admiral Nomura, the Japanese ambassador in Washington, and gave him what Stimson and top Army and Navy officials later described as amounting to an ultimatum, which was bound to strengthen the Japanese military chauvinists. Despite this, Premier Fumimaro Konoye of Japan made repeated overtures for a personal meeting with President Roosevelt with the aim of arriving at a definitive settlement of Japanese-American problems, even going so far as to make the unprecedented concession of offering to come to American shores for such a meeting. But Konoye's pleas were unceremoniously rejected.

Even this did not completely discourage the Japanese. As late as November 1941, even the militaristic government of Admiral Tojo made a final offer to the United States which would have adequately protected our interests in the Far East and which would have afforded Japan the opportunity to retire honorably to Manchuria. This was rejected by Secretary Hull, under pressure from pro-Chinese and pro-Soviet personages in China and Washington. On November 26, 1941, Hull handed the Japanese an ultimatum so sharp and severe that, after he had transmitted it, Hull frankly admitted that his action had taken Japanese-American relations out of the realm of diplomacy and handed them over to the military authorities.

Accordingly, Washington awaited the inevitable Japanese attack. There was much worry for a time lest this be made on British or Dutch territory, which would have involved the Roosevelt administration in serious political difficulties, in the light of Roosevelt's promise that we would not enter the war unless attacked. There was great relief, if no great surprise, when the Japanese struck at Pearl Harbor.

6 - The Actual Road to Pearl Harbor

The sixth chapter, by Mr. Morgenstern, provides the most reliable and up-to-date account of the immediate antecedents of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor which has yet been published. Incidentally, it disposes for all time of the whitewashings set forth in many newspapers and periodicals on the tenth anniversary of that tragic event.

When President Roosevelt finally got ready actively to foment war with Japan, he appropriately summoned Stimson as Secretary of War in June 1940. Roosevelt laid his plan for an economic blockade of Japan in 1937 and continued it until the final and decisive move in the July 1941, embargo. All responsible authorities in Washington knew this meant inevitable war with Japan unless it was relaxed, which Roosevelt, Hull, and Stimson were determined would never happen. Stimson was the father of the "sanctions" plan of economic pressure, and, once he was in the cabinet, the program proceeded apace. Roosevelt signed the Export Control Act on July 2, 1940. The expansion of this program effectively blocked Ambassador Grew's hopes and plans for a diplomatic understanding between Japan and the United States. The adoption of a war policy was not affected by our cracking Japanese coded messages which made it certain that Japan wished to avoid war with the United States at any cost short of national humiliation and complete retirement from the Asiatic mainland — which was what Roosevelt and Hull actually demanded of Japan.

Military and diplomatic plans for war on Japan paralleled the tightening of economic pressure. Highly secret joint staff conferences between the United States and Great Britain were held in Washington from January to March 1941. At their close, Admiral Stark wrote to his fleet commanders that "The question as to our entry into the war now seems to be when, and not whether." This entry would take place, not only in the event that Japan attacked American forces or territory, but, also, under the terms of a supplementary plan drafted at Singapore in late April, if Japan attacked the forces or territory of British Commonwealth nations or the Netherlands East Indies or moved her own forces beyond a line marked by 100 degrees East longitude and 10 degrees North latitude. Thus, despite President Roosevelt's assurances that our soldiers would not be sent into any foreign war, and regardless of the Democratic campaign pledge of 1940 that we would not go to war unless we were attacked, Roosevelt and his associates had pledged us to go to war if British or Dutch territory were attacked or if Japanese armed forces crossed an arbitrarily determined line.

Having failed to provoke Germany or Italy to declare war by our unneutral conduct in the Atlantic and in Europe, Roosevelt and Churchill met off the coast of Newfoundland in August 1941, in an effort to devise some means for getting America into the war through the back door of the Pacific. Roosevelt insisted on "babying" the Japanese along for three months until we were better prepared for a Pacific war. But it was also agreed that Roosevelt would give a harsh warning to the Japanese ambassador in Washington, Admiral Nomura, which would stiffen the chauvinist groups in Tokyo. Accordingly, after Roosevelt returned from Newfoundland, he summoned Nomura on August 17 and gave him what Secretary Stimson and Army and Navy officials correctly described as virtually an ultimatum to Japan.

Despite this, Japan veritably crawled on its diplomatic belly from the end of August 1941, until after the middle of November of that year in an attempt to reach some workable understanding with the United States. The effort met with cold and hostile rebuffs. The rejection of the earnest pleas of Prime Minister Konoye for a meeting with Roosevelt is well known. Not so well known is the fact that the United States had rejected two previous proposals of the Japanese to meet with high American officials at some designated spot, the last previous one being in 1939, at the crucial moment when Germany was seeking to force Japan into a military alliance. Numerous decoded Japanese messages, as well as the Japanese diplomatic proposals themselves, amply proved that the Japanese naval plans and movements in the autumn of 1941 were contingent on the failure to reach a reasonable diplomatic solution of relations with the United States. Japanese diplomacy was not, as Herbert Feis has contended, a smoke screen for naval movements designed to provoke war.

The final Japanese diplomatic terms, offered in early November 1941, as Proposals A and B — especially the latter — would have amply protected all legitimate American interests in the Far East. If they had been accepted, the outcome would have been infinitely more favorable to the United States than the results of the war with Japan, to say nothing of the costs and losses sustained by the United States in the war. The Japanese proposals were bluntly rejected. By November 25 the United States had decided upon war, with no intention of reaching a diplomatic settlement. On that day, at a meeting of Secretaries Hull, Knox, and Stimson, the latter noted in his diary that the only remaining question was how to maneuver Japan into the position of firing the first shot with the least possible loss to the United States. On the same day the Japanese task fleet left the Kuriles for Pearl Harbor, with instructions to "fire the first shot" if no diplomatic settlement was reached, but to return to its base if diplomacy succeeded.

Secretary Hull dispatched an ultimatum to Japan on November 26 which, he fully recognized, decisively closed the door to peace. He himself said that it took the Japanese situation out of diplomacy and handed it over to the Army and Navy. From this time onward it was only a question of when and where the Japanese would attack. Stimson, himself, opposed waiting for the Japanese to attack, and urged that American planes in the Philippines attack the Japanese fleet without warning or any declaration of war, thus executing a Pearl Harbor in reverse.

The decoded Japanese messages between November 26 and December 7 indicated, with relative certainty, when the attack would be made, and they also revealed the strong probability that it would be aimed at Pearl Harbor.

In January 1941, Ambassador Grew had warned Washington that, if the Japanese ever did try to make a surprise attack on the United States, it would probably take place at Pearl Harbor. Top Washington authorities agreed with this. Japanese messages intercepted by Naval Intelligence in Washington between November 26 and December 7 gave convincing evidence that Grew had been right. Especially significant was the fact that Tokyo authorities repeatedly demanded information from their spies at Hawaii as to the situation of the fleet and all other relevant facts as to the Army and Navy deployment there, but asked for no similar information about other possible places of attack.

Basil Rauch and others have contended that Roosevelt and his military entourage expected the attack to take place in Thailand. They were, indeed, worried about the Thailand possibility, not because they regarded it as anywhere nearly as probable as an attack at Pearl Harbor, but because, if the Japanese attack was made in Thailand, they would have had to go to war without the benefit of an attack on American ships or territory. This would have been a violation of Roosevelt's vehement and repeated promises that Americans would not be sent into foreign wars and also of the statement in the Democratic platform of 1940 which said that we would not go to war unless attacked. Roosevelt's problem of carrying the country with him in war would have been greatly intensified. This was the reason for the immense relief felt by American civil and military leaders when the attack was finally made on Pearl Harbor.

Well in advance, the time of the anticipated attack was made even more certain. The "East Wind, Rain" message, indicating that diplomacy had ended and that Japan would make war on Britain and the United States, was intercepted by Naval Intelligence on December 4, three days before the attack. It became known early on the afternoon of the sixth that the Japanese reply to Hull's ultimatum, which all informed persons knew would mean war, would be received on the evening of that day. It was intercepted, and the first thirteen sections were carried to President Roosevelt early that night. He and Harry Hopkins agreed that this meant war. Roosevelt inquired where Admiral Stark was, and, finding that he was at the theater, ordered that he not be disturbed, lest public excitement and curiosity be aroused. The fourteenth section, making it certain, in the light of all past experience as to the way in which Japan began its wars, that the Japanese were going to attack, was ready for distribution in decoded form by 8:00 A.M. on the morning of the seventh. The decoded Japanese message revealed that the full reply would be formally presented to Secretary Hull by the Japanese at 1:00 P.M. on the seventh — 7:30 A.M. Pearl Harbor time. It was recognized that this would probably be the precise time of the Japanese attack.

Nevertheless, nothing was done to warn General Short or Admiral Kimmel at Pearl Harbor. General Marshall disappeared on the afternoon of the sixth and, despite his phenomenal memory, he has persistently declared that he cannot remember where he was on the night of the sixth. Admiral Stark was relaxing at the theater. Stark, although reached by telephone by Roosevelt later that night, did nothing to warn Kimmel during the morning of the seventh. Marshall went for a leisurely horseback ride. When he finally showed up at headquarters, at 11:25 A.M. on the morning of the seventh, instead of immediately sending General Short a warning message by scrambler telephone, which would have reached Short safely in a matter of minutes, he not only failed to do so, but even declined Stark's offer of the use of the speedy naval transmitter. Instead, Marshall leisurely sent Short the message by ordinary commercial radio, not even marking it urgent, just as he might have sent a birthday message to his grandmother. It reached Short seven hours and three minutes after the Japanese attack began and long after the Japanese planes had returned to their carriers.

Just why Marshall and Stark failed to warn Short and Kimmel has never been satisfactorily explained. Marshall has said that he failed to telephone a warning message for fear that the Japanese might intercept it and embarrass the State Department. If they had intercepted such a message the only immediate conceivable result would have been that the Japanese might have called off the attack, since it could not then have been a surprise, or that our forces would have been better prepared to resist the onslaught.

President Roosevelt expressed himself as greatly "surprised" at both the time and place of the attack, and his apologists have accepted these words at their face value. Neither the president nor his apologists have ever given any satisfactory explanation of why he could have been surprised. One thing is certain: he and his entourage were vastly relieved that the attack did take place at Pearl Harbor rather than at Thailand. If they had any reason at all to be surprised, it was only over the extent of the damage inflicted by the Japanese. But there was little reason even for this, in the light of Roosevelt's personal order to keep the fleet bottled up like a flock of wooden ducks, of the order that no decoding machine should be sent to Pearl Harbor, and of the fact that Washington had deliberately failed to pass on to Short and Kimmel any of the alarming information intercepted during the three days before the attack. December 7 may have been a "day of infamy," but the infamy was not all that of Japan.

7 - The Pearl Harbor Investigations

The seventh chapter, by Percy L. Greaves, Jr., is the only thorough and searching account of the various investigations of the responsibility for the Pearl Harbor disaster, though much of the ground had already been covered in a different manner in Charles Austin Beard's President Roosevelt and the Coming of the War, 1941 (Part II). Even the literate American public, if it knows about any investigations of Pearl Harbor, is likely to believe that there were only two of them: the Roberts Commission Report, soon after the attack, and the Congressional Joint Committee investigation of 1945–46. As a matter of fact, there have been some nine investigations, of one sort or another, although none of them uncovered all of the cogent evidence. These investigations are of the utmost importance, not only politically but historically. From them we have learned most of what we know about the scandalous circumstances surrounding the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the responsibility of Roosevelt and his Washington entourage for this personal and public tragedy.

The first investigation of the Pearl Harbor incident was made by Secretary of the Navy William Franklin (Frank) Knox, who flew to Hawaii immediately after the disaster and reported to the president about a week later. Knox stated that General Short and Admiral Kimmel could not be held responsible for the tragedy since they had not been supplied with the secret information about the impending Japanese attack which had been intercepted in Washington. Further, he held that, even if they had been informed, they would not have been able to make an efficient defense, due to the diversion of American fighter planes to the English, Chinese, Dutch, and Russians. Naturally, the administration suppressed this report. It was not discovered until it was dug out of the files by Senator Homer Ferguson at the time of the Congressional Joint Committee investigation in 1945–46.

Next came the Commission of Inquiry headed by Supreme Court Justice Owen J. Roberts, which did its work between December 18, 1941, and January 23, 1942. This was deliberately created to whitewash the Roosevelt administration and the Army and Navy officials in Washington. The Roberts Commission performed its task perfectly. It held that Washington had adequately alerted the commanders at Pearl Harbor as to the danger of an impending Japanese attack and that Short and Kimmel had been delinquent in their duty in failing to take adequate steps to repel the attack.

Justice Roberts stated that he had given all of his report to the public. Earlier, General Marshall had sworn that the sections revealing the secret knowledge intercepted by Washington before Pearl Harbor concerning the probable attack had been withheld from the report as given out by Roberts on January 25, 1942. We now know that Marshall was correct in this matter.

This edited and censored Roberts Report was given wide publicity and many Americans still believe that it represents the last word on the responsibility for Pearl Harbor. They have had further reason for this belief in that most of the books which have endeavored to whitewash the Roosevelt administration relative to Pearl Harbor essentially duplicate the Roberts conclusions.

Early in 1944 Admiral Kimmel requested the Navy Department to make a record of all testimony given relative to Pearl Harbor. On February 12, 1944, the Navy Department appointed Admiral Thomas C. Hart to make the investigation and collect the testimony. Though Hart had no authority to question the White House, or the State or War Departments, and did not question Admiral Stark, Admiral Kimmel, Captain Arthur McCollum, or Commander Alvin D. Kramer — the key Navy witnesses — he did obtain conclusive evidence, especially from Captain Laurence F. Safford, that the Washington authorities had comprehensive secret information, well in advance of December 7, 1941, of an impending Japanese attack. Admiral Richmond K. Turner also revealed the fact that, as early as May 1941, the Navy was laying its war plans for cooperation with the British and Dutch in the Pacific, even though the Japanese did not attack American forces or territory. Naturally, none of this information was given to the public.

Even more damaging was the report of the Army Pearl Harbor Board, which started work in July 1944, and collected some forty-one volumes of testimony and seventy exhibits. It examined over 150 witnesses. Due to the integrity and courage of Colonel Harry A. Toulmin, executive officer of the board, the report gave an honest and accurate account of the Pearl Harbor situation, so far as the board could obtain evidence. It had no authority to question the White House or State Department. The report placed the blame on Secretary of State Hull, General Marshall, and General Leonard T. Gerow, as well as on General Short. The APHB also dug up much additional data as to the nature and extent of the secret information possessed by the Washington authorities in advance of December 7, 1941, concerning the impending Japanese attack. The APHB Report was not given to the public until after V-J Day, but it greatly upset Secretary of War Stimson, and he sought to undo the damage by the Clausen Investigation, which will be described shortly. The investigation conducted by the Navy Court of Inquiry from July 24, 1944 to October 19, 1944, did an equally good piece of work in investigating the responsibility of naval officials for Pearl Harbor. The court essentially exonerated Admiral Kimmel of neglect of duty and severely criticized Admiral Stark for not passing on to Kimmel the secret information about the prospective Japanese attack which Stark possessed before Pearl Harbor. One of the most important things accomplished by the NCI Report was to establish beyond any possibility of doubt that the crucial "Winds Code Execute" messages ("East Wind, Rain") had actually been received, decoded, and discussed by top Washington officials of the Army and Navy, and possibly at the White House. This message, intercepted and decoded on December 4, 1941, revealed that Japan had abandoned diplomatic efforts and was about to make war on the United States and Britain. General Marshall was said to have ordered the destruction of the copy of the "Winds" messages in the Army files, and whitewashing historians like Admiral Samuel Eliot Morison have tried to make us believe that no such code message was ever received. The NCI Report was not given out until after the close of the war.

The so-called Clarke Inquiries, conducted by Colonel Carter W. Clarke, deputy chief of the Military Intelligence Service, in September 1944, and July 1945, were mainly concerned with the handling of "Magic," the decoded Japanese messages, by the War Department. While designed to be a whitewash, the inquiry did establish the fact that the "Winds" message was well known to Army officials before Pearl Harbor, and revealed the secret Anglo-American-Dutch naval plans for war that so worried Roosevelt and his associates when they learned that there might be a "long shot" chance that the Japanese would attack Thailand instead of Pearl Harbor.

Since the APHB Report had criticized top Army officials, including General Marshall and General Gerow, Secretary Stimson set about to undermine the report. On November 23, 1944, Stimson announced the appointment of Colonel Henry C. Clausen of the Judge Advocate General's Department and a former member of the staff of the APHB to travel anywhere necessary, interview persons who had given damaging testimony during the APHB inquiry, and to get them, if possible, to modify their testimony. Clausen traveled 55,000 miles and interviewed ninety-two persons. He included statements from only fifty in his report. As might be expected, the Clausen "investigation" whitewashed Marshall and condemned Short, finding its main Washington scapegoat in General Gerow, though, at the time of Pearl Harbor, Gerow had no authority whatever to issue instructions to General Short. Only General Marshall could have done that.

The Navy Department was also disturbed over the NCI Report, so, on May 2, 1945, Admiral H. Kent Hewitt was instructed to make a study of all previous Navy investigations of Pearl Harbor and conduct all needed further investigation. The Hewitt Inquiry failed to whitewash Admiral Stark as the Clausen investigation had whitewashed General Marshall, though it is relatively certain that any delinquencies on the part of Stark in December 1941, were due to restraints imposed on him by the White House. The blame for Pearl Harbor, as far as the Navy was concerned, was still placed primarily on Admiral Kimmel, though Admiral Hewitt specifically admitted that Stark did not send Kimmel the alarming secret information about the coming Japanese attack that Stark possessed.

The most formidable investigation of the responsibility for the Pearl Harbor disaster was that conducted by a Congressional Joint Committee on the Investigation of the Pearl Harbor Attack, which carried on its work from September 1945 to May 1946. This was produced mainly by the demands of Senator Homer Ferguson and other congressional critics of administration conduct relative to Pearl Harbor and the earlier investigations thereof. Though this congressional inquiry occupied much time, examined many witnesses, and collected a vast body of evidence, the Democratic majority members had no wish or intention to get at the real facts about the actual responsibility for Pearl Harbor. They desired as much of a whitewash as would be possible at a public hearing that was under the eye of the press and public, though both the press and public had been conditioned to accept administration innocence. The Republican minority was eager to get at facts damaging to the Roosevelt administration, but was prevented from obtaining all the evidence it desired — even all of that which the executive department would divulge — and it was limited in its examination of witnesses. The committee was buried under an avalanche of alleged evidence which it did not request and which it did not have time to examine — and much of it was irrelevant. The inquiry was stopped short over the protests of the minority, though Secretaries Hull and Stimson did not appear for detailed examination, nor were the orderlies who covered General Marshall on December 6, 1941, brought to the stand. Only they could have revealed the mysterious location of Marshall on the crucial night of December 6, 1941.

The Majority Report would have been a complete whitewash had it not been for the successful effort made to lure the Republican Congressmen, Gearhart and Keefe, into signing the Majority Report. To bring about this result, the majority had to concede the introduction of much damaging material relative to the Roosevelt administration, and to the Army and Navy Departments. It is instructive to note that even this majority effort at whitewashing presents a far more damaging case against the Washington authorities than the whitewashing volumes of Walter Millis, Basil Rauch, Samuel Eliot Morison, and Herbert Feis, to all of whom the full congressional report was available. Even though Gearhart and Keefe made a tactical error in signing the Majority Report, Keefe, at least, did not agree with much of it. His long statement, in his "Additional Views," was in some ways a sharper indictment of the Washington authorities than the Minority Report. The latter was very restrained, due to the effort to state nothing not overwhelmingly supported by what evidence the minority could obtain. It placed the responsibility for the disaster at Pearl Harbor squarely on the shoulders of the authorities at Washington, where it belonged.

Despite the mass of damaging information brought forth by the APHB and the NCI, and by the Congressional Joint Committee, considerable evidence awaits further investigation, and it is unfortunate that, when the Republicans were in a majority in Congress in 1947–49, they did not clean up the matter.

Mr. Greaves concludes his survey with material from the recently published official Army history on Prewar Plans and Preparations, which thoroughly establishes the fact that Roosevelt had committed us to war in the Pacific even if American forces and territory were not attacked — a violation of his sacred 1940 promises to "American fathers and mothers," and the reason for the great agitation of the administration authorities lest the Japanese might possibly attack at Thailand.

The net result of revisionist scholarship applied to Pearl Harbor boils down essentially to this: In order to promote Roosevelt's political ambitions and his mendacious foreign policy some three thousand American boys were quite needlessly butchered at Pearl Harbor. Of course, they were only a drop in the bucket compared to those who were ultimately slain in the war that resulted, which was as needless, in terms of vital American interests, as the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.

8 - The Bankcruptcy of a Policy

The eighth chapter, by Mr. Chamberlin, goes to the crux of the Roosevelt foreign policy. It has been well established that Roosevelt lied this country into the Second World War against the wishes of at least 80 percent of the American people. This war cost the United States about a million casualties — 227,131 were killed in action, 26,705 died of wounds, 38,891 died of other causes, 12,780 were missing, and 672,483 were wounded. Its direct monetary cost to the United States was about $350,000,000,000 — the ultimate cost will be at least one and a half trillion dollars, not counting military costs after 1945 which resulted directly from President Roosevelt's war and which are increasing fantastically today. There were other great cultural and moral costs which Mr. Chamberlin enumerates in his chapter.

The wisdom of Roosevelt and his associates in provoking and waging this war can only be fairly tested by weighing the results against the costs. Enormous advantages would have to be proved to justify such astronomical costs and appalling tragedies. Mr. Chamberlin proves with a wealth of evidence that virtually no benefits to humanity at large or to the citizens and national interest of the United States were reaped as a result of our entry into the war. For the most part, the situation is far worse than it would have been if we had remained aloof.

Many adulators of the foreign policy of President Roosevelt have now been forced, by the mounting evidence, to admit that he did lie us into war. But they take refuge in the allegation that this was all more than justified by the great services he rendered to the United States and to the world. Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., has contended that such a policy and actions were the traits of the good public servant and faithful official. Mr. Chamberlin's chapter answers such cynical casuistry for all time.

At the outset of the chapter, Mr. Chamberlin recounts the manner in which Roosevelt lied us into war, from the destroyer-base deal of September 1940 to Secretary Hull's ultimatum of November 26, 1941. Public assurances of peaceful intent were paralleled throughout by policies and actions deliberately and effectively designed to bring us into war. Chamberlin exposes the bogus scare campaign that was based on the allegation that Hitler planned to conquer and occupy the United States as soon as he had disposed of Britain and Russia.

The main announced aims of Franklin D. Roosevelt in waging the war were

  1. applying the principles of the Atlantic Charter of August 1941;
  2. fostering the Four Freedoms;
  3. securing the unconditional surrender of Germany and Japan as a prerequisite of peace;
  4. cooperating with Soviet Russia for the purpose of promoting freedom, democracy, justice and peace throughout the world;
  5. defending and perpetuating the regime of Chiang Kai-shek in the Far East;
  6. promoting throughout the world our high moral ideals as expressed in Roosevelt's fictitious promises and Secretary Hull's Pharisaical banalities;
  7. creating a new world organization — the United Nations — which would curb war and assure permanent world peace; and
  8. increasing American national security and obtaining assurance of protection from menacing forces both within and without our country.

Mr. Chamberlin relentlessly, but fairly, goes down the line of these alleged war aims and shows that only one was realized in practice. The Atlantic Charter has been violated as completely as were the Fourteen Points of Woodrow Wilson after 1918. Russia took the lead in the violation of the charter, but the United States and Britain were not without guilt and they stood aside in the face of wholesale Russian violations. None of the Four Freedoms was made more effective by the war and, in most respects, they are further from realization in 1953 than in 1940. Unconditional surrender prolonged the war by nearly two years; led to colossal and needless losses in lives, money, property, historic monuments, and art treasures; helped to put Russia in a dominant position in the Old World; disrupted the economic life of Central Europe; and cost the United States in excess of twenty-five billion dollars in the effort to restore the damaged areas. It also created in the devastated areas undying resentment which may produce the germs of a third world war.

Russia repudiated all concern with democracy and liberty after the war was over and was interested in peace only if it was assured in terms of Russian interests. As a result of Roosevelt's collaboration with Russia, the latter attained greater power than Germany and Japan combined had possessed in 1940, and the Soviets were far less interested in amicable relations with the United States than Germany and Japan were before Pearl Harbor. The balance of power was destroyed in Europe, and the United States is now spending untold billions in the futile effort to restore it. In the Far East, Russia has superseded Japan as the dominant power, and Japan has been rendered helpless as a checkmate against Russian advances. Chiang Kai-shek has been driven in impotent disgrace to a precarious haven in Formosa and the Chinese Communists have taken over China. Our inept policy in China has forced the Chinese Communists into the arms of the Kremlin instead of turning Chinese national ambitions against Russia. A new world war is raging in Korea, far more menacing to world peace than the Chinese-Japanese war of 1937–41.

Roosevelt's benign moral promises and Hull's pious beatitudes have gone with the wind, leaving behind the horrors of mass murder, appalling physical devastation, wholesale deportations, vindictive massacres, legalized lynchings of defeated war leaders, a world in chaos, and international integrity only a memory. The United Nations is split right down the middle, has failed to promote peace, and its rump is being used to promote war rather than to assure peace. Public morality has been debased by a generation of public lying, and cynicism about the gravest offenses against political ethics is growing with alarming rapidity. The corruption of the Truman administration vastly exceeded that of the Harding era.

American national security has not been assured; rather, it is much more precarious than in 1941. Russian power is far greater than that of Germany and Japan combined, and Russia is less desirous of peace with the United States. Our economic security is menaced by debt, unparalleled inflation, near-confiscatory taxes, and the prospect of astronomical future expenditures in a probably futile effort to regain the international security we already enjoyed at the time of Pearl Harbor. Individual security is menaced by our unstable economy, by unprecedented inroads upon our civil liberties and personal rights and by the specter of universal military training and interminable war hazards.

Such is the balance sheet of Roosevelt foreign policy, as Mr. Chamberlin accurately concludes: "intellectual, moral, political, and economic bankruptcy, complete and irretrievable."

In a short postscript to Mr. Chamberlin's chapter, Dr. Neumann shows that the Truman administration followed the same interventionist policy as did the Roosevelt regime, using similar tactics and with comparably disastrous results.

9 - American Foreign Policy in the Light of National Interest at the Mid-Century

In the ninth chapter, Dr. Lundberg investigates the bearing and effects of the Roosevelt-Truman global foreign policy on the national interest of the United States. He examines the problem in the light of social science rather than the romantic, ethnocentric idealism of the global enthusiasts.

Our conception of national interest and security down to about 1914, and very completely down to 1898, was founded upon the framework of what has been called continentalism. This rejected American intervention in the controversies of the Old World and warned against Old World interference in our own affairs. It reserved complete freedom of action in defending our interests and rights in all parts of the world. It embraced neutrality as our basic policy in world affairs, designed to limit, so far as possible, such wars as did flare forth. Isolationism was no part of this outlook or policy. Those who upheld the principle of continentalism were not opposed to any reasonable degree or volume of peaceful international relationships and they were as congenial to all practicable world organization as they were to pleasant weather, a salubrious climate, or human happiness. In the era during which continentalism was dominant we grew to be a great and prosperous nation, remained aloof from world wars for a century, were free from heavy public debt and more than nominal federal taxes, and enjoyed greater personal liberty than any other important nation in the world.

To counter this traditional policy of continentalism, which made the United States secure and prosperous, there has appeared, since 1914 and especially since 1940, a movement based on internationalism and interventionism that repudiates nearly all of our traditional principles and practices. It was born out of the following pressures:

  1. the myth of the indispensable value of a large foreign trade to the prosperity of the country;
  2. uninformed, unbridled, and undisciplined ethnocentric idealism;
  3. the lavishly subsidized peace movement, with easy access to and great power over the leading agencies of communication and propaganda, now the leading nonpolitical pressure group for global war; and
  4. British diplomacy, which has cleverly won American support during terminal stages of British imperial disintegration.

The best way to assess the relative advantages of these two contesting conceptions of national interest is to examine their past and probable future contributions to American security and prosperity. It was once assumed that we could be safe within our own boundaries, but now we are told that we must have many military bases widely scattered throughout the globe. Yet this is not likely to promote our own security or world peace. The more we extend our bases the more we expose ourselves to attack and the more we arouse the hostility of other nations which are not likely to take at their face value our protestations of peace and good will. Our peace record on our own continent is not too impressive. It is generally agreed that our entry into the First World War did not increase our security, and there is a growing conviction that the same is true of our entry into the second.

The new internationalism has introduced a legalistic-moralistic approach to world problems that ignores "the principles of limits and balance operative in human society, based on the location and distribution of resources as well as on technological development and literacy of populations, to which realistic political and economic programs must conform if they are to achieve their objectives." It is fantastic to imagine that we can extend all the blessings of advanced cultures to all peoples of the globe immediately and without reference to these principles. World prosperity and peace must be developed in harmony with ecological and sociological principles rather than in accord with the rhetoric of radio commentators, journalists, preachers, playwrights, novelists, and sculptors. The folly of the legalistic-moralistic-emotional approach to world problems can be well illustrated by such recent and costly absurdities as Britain's encouragement of German policies from 1933 to 1939 — and then suddenly declaring war on Germany for continuing the same policies. Then came the Allied destruction of German and Japanese military power, soon to be followed by a costly and probably vain effort to rebuild it. Britain tolerated or encouraged, for several years, the American imposition of a modified Morgenthau Plan on Germany in 1945 — and then approved replacing it with a Marshall Plan to repair the damage done.

Security may well be promoted by larger organizations than the national state, but such larger political entities must be based on geographical, ecological, technological, and cultural realities. Fantastic political boundaries are set up carelessly and arbitrarily, but once they are established, however casually and lightheartedly, they take on some mysterious sanctity; to violate them "breaks the heart of the world." Every border war becomes a world war, and world peace disappears from the scene. By this absurd policy, internationalism and interventionism invite and insure "perpetual war for perpetual peace," since any move that threatens petty nations and these mystical boundaries becomes an "aggressive war" which must not be tolerated, even though to oppose it may break the back of the world.

So far as prosperity is concerned, the new internationalism makes no better showing than it does with respect to peace and security. Foreign trade has never constituted more than 10 percent of the total trade of the United States, and domestic trade could easily be increased by much more than 10 percent through wise economic reforms. The cost of wars and armaments to the United States since 1917 exceeds the income that would result from a favorable balance in our foreign trade for a thousand years. The illogicality of the attitude of the "one worlders" in regard to the foreign trade which they venerate is easily exposed by pointing out that, if we actually produced the world state they so ardently demand, there would be no foreign trade whatever.

Before 1914 our national debt was virtually nonexistent; now it is approaching three hundred billion dollars. Taxes are becoming confiscatory. President Truman collected more federal taxes, from April 1945 to January 1953, than all other American Presidents combined. Inflation is whittling away with alarming speed the purchasing power of the dollar.

The dolorous record of global meddling is becoming so impressive that it is at last beginning to stimulate apostasy among the formerly devout in the Roosevelt-Truman circle. The best example is provided by the recent book by George F. Kennan, American Diplomacy, 1900–1950, in which the author assails the logic and alleged benefits of the legalistic-moralistic approach of the internationalists with as much vigor as Beard, though he discreetly, if illogically, withholds most criticism on events since 1939. It is easy, however, for the reader to carry Kennan's argument down through the mid-century.

Despite the overwhelming domination of the internationalists over public policy today, their defeat is not impossible. The movement is supported actively by only a microscopic fraction of the populace, though we all suffer from its depredations. The internationalists constitute only a sort of "Inner Party" in our incipient "Nineteen Eighty-Four" regime — not unlike the select Communist group or elite in Soviet Russia. The total claimed membership of all the world government organizations combined is under one hundred thousand. This presents what is probably the most extreme example of minority control in modern history, though its exponents pretend to be battling for world democracy. Their strength lies in their command over the agencies of communication and the support given them by powerful minority pressure groups, the world's richest foundations, and powerful oil and other international financial interests. If the public could get access to the facts, the return to continentalism and to sanity in world affairs would be quickly accomplished, to the vast benefit of the national interest and security of the United States.


There is little doubt that this book will be smeared by the "blackout" and "whitewashing" contingents as "a return to prewar isolationism," "the revival of America First," and the like. The epithet of "isolationism" is one of the conspicuous examples of the provision of "Newspeak" by the American advance guard of "Nineteen Eighty-Four" semantics. It is a smear term with no realistic meaning.

Few of those who opposed American entry into the Second World War were isolationists in any sense whatever and many of the leaders, like the late Professor Beard, were lifelong advocates of rational international relations and good will. Indeed, there has been little or no literal isolationism in our traditional American foreign policy. Even Jefferson and the Founding Fathers were vigorous advocates of international intercourse and understanding. The only isolation that any of them, or their successors, ever advocated was isolation from selfish foreign quarrels, and this policy is as wise and vital today as it was in 1800. Indeed, it is even more essential to our national salvation and security today than it was a century and a half ago.

The authors of this book recognize the need and advantage of the widest possible degree of international contacts and relationships on a peaceful plane. Many of them were actively working toward such a goal when some of the most vocal advocates of global meddling today were babes in their cradles and swaddling clothes. But a system that transforms every border war into a potential world war, seeks to thwart fundamental historic trends, and makes war scares and armament hysteria the basis of domestic political strategy and economic "prosperity" can hardly be regarded as an effective means to achieve world peace.



Harry Elmer Barnes

Harry Elmer Barnes (1889-1968) was a pioneer of historical revisionism, meaning the use of historical scholarship to challenge and refute the narratives of history promulgated by the state and the political class, or as Barnes himself termed it, "court history." Long regarded as a progressive intellectual leader of the American Left, Barnes became associated with the Old Right for his opposition to the New Deal and to American entry into World War II. His work has had a profound influence on New Left historians such as William Appleman Williams and Gabriel Kolko, as well as on the historical writings of Murray Rothbard and other libertarians.

See Murray Rothbard's obituary, "Harry Elmer Barnes, RIP."