published the November 1954 issue of The
We are again
being told to be afraid. As it was before the two world wars so
it is now: politicians talk in frightening terms, journalists
invent scare lines, and even next-door neighbors are taking up
the cry: the enemy is at the city gates; we must gird for battle.
In case you donít know, the enemy this time is the USSR.
no question about the sincerity of these good Americans. And I
admit that the evidence they adduce to support their fears cannot
be easily dismissed. As a matter of fact, the history of nations
is a continuous story of enemies at the city gates, and it can
be conceded without further argument that a rich country like
ours would be a tempting morsel for any gang that thought itself
strong enough to make a try for it. Perhaps it would be good for
us to "keep our powder dry."
What is "defense"? There is a wide divergence of opinion
in this area, probably because it involves an understanding of
strategy and defense, and who is there that has the right
answers in either field? Some say that the way to get rid of the
Red menace is to knock it off wherever it shows its head. Others
would avoid the sideshow and get to the big top, in Moscow. Even
the experts are in disagreement on tactics: some say the foot
soldier will win the war, others maintain that air power has made
the infantry obsolete, while the navy presses its claim to preeminence.
Nuclear physics has confounded the confusion, while the reliability
of presumed allies blurs the picture still more.
citizen, the fellow who will do the fighting and paying, is certainly
scared by all these arguments over "defense," all of
which are based on the assumption that the war is inevitable,
which alone frightens him. Before he goes berserk, he might review
the whole situation in the light of experience, and maybe the
common sense of it will give him some light.
In the first
place, as these articulate fearers readily admit, the war being
talked about will have to be fought with conscripts. That is taken
for granted, is not even argued, because it is inconceivable that
enough Americans would volunteer to fight a war with Russia on
foreign soil. I am sure that if Americans were convinced that
their country were in imminent danger of being invaded, they would
rush to the ramparts. If I am wrong, then the whole question is
meaningless; for a people that will not defend its homeland is
of no account. But if conscription has to be resorted to, is that
not evidence that the proposed war with Russia is not wanted?
this matter of conscription, for I believe it points to the heart
of the question. In all probability we would not have been able
to raise a volunteer army to send to Europe in 1917; the fact
that it was not even tried indicates that the politicians knew
it would not work. In 1942, the armies sent to Europe and Japan
were also conscript armies. I donít think a single division
could have been raised by the volunteer system for the Korean
the pertinent question: If Americans did not want these wars,
should they have been compelled to fight them? Perhaps the people
were wrong in their lack of enthusiasm for these wars, but their
right to be wrong cannot be questioned in what we call a democratic
system. Those who presume to compel people to be "right,"
against their will, are taking unto themselves a mandate for which
there is no warrant other than their own conceit. Did God select
them to do the coercing?
I could go
into the results of these wars to show that the instinct of the
people was sounder than the judgment of the politicians; a good
case could be made for the thesis that if we had not been forced
into these wars we would not be facing another one now. But that
is not the present point. We are told that we must fear the Russians.
I am more afraid of those who, like their forebears, would compel
us against our will to fight the Russians. They have the dictator
wars were all fought on foreign soil. And each was preceded by
a campaign of fear such as we are now experiencing. The kaiser
and Hitler each planned to invade the United States, it was said,
and there are some who maintain that if we had not fought the
communists in Korea we would have had them on our hands in California.
That is, the rationale of these wars was invasion, which was another
way of admitting that the soldiers would not have even reluctantly
accepted involuntary servitude if they had not been convinced
that their homeland was threatened. Postwar research reveals that
neither the kaiser nor Hitler even contemplated the impossible
task of crossing the Atlantic with an army, suggesting that the
fear campaigns were manufactured out of whole cloth. What reason
have we to believe otherwise of the present campaign of fear?
we are told, things are "different." The kaiser and
Hitler were only partly deranged: now we are dealing with a crowd
of honest-to-goodness maniacs. I might accept that designation
of the Moscow communists simply because I have met Americans of
like persuasion and have found them to be off base. Also, I am
acquainted with the literature of the communists in which they
proclaim their intention to conquer the world. But I am not frightened
because I am not convinced of the world-conquering potential of
the Moscow gang, or of its ability to invade my country. If I
were, or rather, if the youth of my country were, we could dispense
with the "selective service" bunkum.
only one difference in the present urgency for war and that which
preceded the others, and it is a frightening difference. The proponents
frankly admit that if this war eventuates, Americans will be rushed
into a condition of involuntary servitude not unlike that which
obtains in the Soviet Union. Such soothing syrup as the "war
to end all wars" will not go down this time. Even the most
gullible American cannot be fooled by moral platitudes. Too many
Americans now realize that war adds power to the state, at the
expense of liberty, and there is a strong suspicion that the next
war will just about wipe out whatever liberty we have. That is,
we will be infected by the same virus that we set out to exterminate.
Way, Itís Slavery
all this, the fearers come up with a "clincher" the
argument that is supposed to leave no escape for the prospective
buyer. "Would you not prefer to give up your freedom temporarily
to an American than to a Russian dictator?" Letís examine
this either-or gimmick.
only seems to suggest a choice. But there is none. In either case,
the chooser has only one choice: a condition of slavery. The selection
is limited to the nationality of the master, or between Tweedledee
and Tweedledum. Why go to war for that privilege? (Parenthetically,
it is easier to stir up a revolution against a foreign invader
than a native dictator.) The suggestion that the American dictatorship
would be "temporary" makes this whole argument suspect,
for no dictatorship has ever set a limit on its term of office;
it is by nature precluded from so doing.
Let us keep
in mind that the advocates of war do not propose to exterminate
communism; they only hope to exterminate a communistic regime.
No doubt they would like to do both, but they admit, as they must,
that the war would not exterminate it but would rather saddle
communism, or something very like it, on America. The only way
to avoid that consequence is to avoid war, and the question at
issue is whether it can be.
that we do not bring the war to Russia, can the Russians bring
it to us? That is, can they invade the United States with an army?
I know of no responsible military man who maintains that they
If they cannot
invade us with an army, can they invade us with hydrogen bombs?
It is said that they can; but why should they? The experts agree
that it would be a hazardous venture, involving an expenditure
of men and material of fantastic proportions; the Soviet leaders
are not crazy. Nor are they unaware of the probability of a retaliatory
delivery which, because of their reportedly weak productive capacity,
might do them more harm than what they did to us. If they started
a mutually destructive war of bombs, it could only be as an act
of desperation and an admission that they were licked anyway.
Also, some military men hold that a bomb war would not be decisive;
there would still be the problem of transporting an army to hold
the territory of the destroyed country. (Here I am getting into
strategy and tactics, about which I know only what I read; but
in that respect I believe I am on a par with the proponents of
can Moscow foment a successful revolution in this country and
take possession through its American agents? That is a possibility.
But, if a successful revolution occurs in this country, it will
indicate that our security officers have either been asleep or
in cahoots with the Kremlin. Either situation seems highly improbable.
Anyway, war will not prevent the revolution, if one is in the
making, but would rather help it along, for it would divert our
soldiers from the job at home.
have we to be afraid of? The hysteria of fear. There is no doubt
that the warmongers of Moscow are as fearful as our own. Neither
group knows what the other is up to, and the misapprehension could
trigger a "preventive" war by either side. So the only
way to prevent a conflagration is to remove the tinder. The Soviets
could do it very easily by simply reversing their position, that
is, by moving their troops back to within the borders of their
country and indicating an intention to keep the peace. But they
are not likely to do that, for ideological reasons, and because
a dictatorship is impelled by its inner workings to be on the
warpath all the time.
not a dictatorship. Presumably, its government has the interests
of its people at heart, and their interests in the present instance
would best be served by the avoidance of war. That is the only
way to preserve whatever freedom we still have. Therefore and
now I am assuming that our leaders are not imperialistically minded if
we withdrew our troops to the Western Hemisphere and abandoned
our global military commitments, the danger that is now threatening
us would be minimized, if not removed.
To this suggestion
that we come home and mind our business the fearmongers pose an
objection taken from the graveyard of propaganda. Before World
War II we were told that if we did not go to Europe to stop Hitler,
he would come to us. "Our frontier is on the Rhine."
Now we are told that if we get out of Europe, the communists will
overrun the Continent, get hold of its productive machinery, and
prepare themselves for an invasion of America. We must stop them
before they move an inch farther West.
If the Russians,
after we had left, did move into France and Italy, it might be
because they were invited or met only token resistance. If I read
the newspaper dispatches correctly, I must conclude that large
segments of the populations of these two countries are favorably
inclined to a regime of communism. In that case, our presence
in Europe is an impertinent interference with the internal affairs
of these countries; let them go communist if they want to.
On the other
hand, if we moved out, and the Muscovites followed on our heels,
it could be that the countries of Europe which now show little
inclination to defend their national integrity would put up a
fight; they would not have to resort to conscription. And even
if they could not stop the Russians, their resistance would be
an assurance that the invaders would get little production out
of them; the vast productive capacity might be sabotaged and become
useless to the invaders. In short, we might have real allies in
Europe, which we donít have now.
books tell me that the weakness of a conqueror increases in proportion
to the extent of his conquest. If that is true, then the overrunning
of Europe might be the death-knell, of the Soviet regime; it could
collapse without any effort on our part. Then again, if communism
should solidly establish itself in Western Europe, it would be
because it is in fact a sound economic and political system, one
under which the people like to live and work; in that case, we
ought to take it on ourselves, willingly and without getting it
by way of war.
a more important reason for our getting out of Europe and abandoning
our global military commitments. We would be strengthening ourselves,
even as the Soviets were weakening themselves by extending their
lines. The vast military equipment which we are sending abroad,
and much of which might fall into the hands of the Russians, would
be stockpiled here for the ultimate struggle. The manpower which
is now going to waste in uniform could be put to the task of building
up our war potential. Our economy would be strengthened for the
expected shock. We would become a veritable military giant, and
because of our strength we would attract real allies, not lukewarm
it would be hard on the Europeans if they fell into Soviet hands;
but not any worse than if we precipitated a war in which their
homes became the battlefield. It is bad for the Hungarians, the
Czechs, the Latvians and all the other peoples who have to live
under the commissars. We are sorry for all of them and wish we
could help them. But we are only 160 million people, and we simply
cannot fight for all the people in the world. Maybe we could be
of more use to them if, while they carried on an underground movement,
with whatever matériel we could get to them, we built ourselves
up for the final knockout blow, provided it became necessary.
thing for America now is not to let the fearmongers (or the imperialists)
frighten us into a war which, no matter what the military outcome,
is certain to communize our country.