At nine-thirty P.M., Sunday, Dee. 29 last our President broadcasted his views on the European conflict, the interests of our own country in that conflict, and the proper course for our government to pursue with relation to that conflict. The speech had been anxiously expected by millions in our own country and abroad, especially because it was expected that President Roosevelt would issue a frank statement as to his own intentions with respect to the limit of our aid to Great Britain. And in this respect no one could possibly complain of being disappointed.
Clearly the chief executive outlined what he conceived to be the issues at stake in the present war. It is a conflict between two worlds: the world of the almighty State without freedom on the one hand, and the world of freedom and democracy on the other. The Axis powers aim at nothing short of world-dominion. And: “Never before, since Jamestown and Plymouth Rock, has our American civilization been in such danger as now. For on Sept. 27, 1940, this year by an agreement signed in Berlin three powerful nations joined themselves together in the threat that if the United States of America interfered with or blocked. . . .a program at world control, they would unite in ultimate action against the United States.” And again, referring to a recent speech by Adolph Hitler, the President stated: “It was only three weeks ago that their leader stated this: ‘There are two worlds that stand opposed to each other. . . .with this world (the democratic world) we cannot ever reconcile ourselves. I can beat any other power in the world.”
Mr. Roosevelt reiterated his views, outlined in a former speech which we, no doubt, all recall, as to the possibility of a direct attack upon our land by the Axis powers. He reminded us that the world today is very small, and that the Atlantic is no longer a safeguard against attack from the air. There are bombing planes today, he stated, that could hop off from the other side of the Atlantic, unload their destructive cargo on our shores, and return to their base without refueling. And: “Germany has said that she was occupying Belgium to save the Belgians from the British. Would she then hesitate to say to any South American country: ‘We are occupying you to protect you from aggression by the United States’? And any South American country, in Nazi hands, would always constitute a jumping-off place for the German attack on any one of the other of the republics of this hemisphere. . . . The last resources of this American hemisphere constitute the most tempting loot in all the world.”
And although the president did not outline any detailed plan of the way in which our government was to aid Great Britain, he made it very clear that, if his plans are adopted and carried out, there will be no limit to that aid except our own capacity to produce war material and to get it across the Atlantic. To accomplish this with all possible speed he expressed to be his firm determination. And: “No dictator, no combination of dictators, will weaken that determination by threats of how they will construe that determination.” Besides, the President reminded us: “It is no more unneutral for us to send weapons to Britain than it is for Sweden, Russia and other nations near Germany to send steel and coal and oil and other war materials into Germany every day in the week.”
Mr. Roosevelt did not repeat his promise to keep our country out of war, although he did state that there is no demand for sending another expeditionary force to Europe, and “there is no intention by any member of your government to send such a force.”
There is much in the speech of President Roosevelt with which all must agree.
There can be no doubt about the fact that Nazism with its ideal of the almighty State means the end of all liberty. Under Nazi rule there is no room for “sovereignty in one’s own domain.” Personal liberty, liberty in the family, the school, society, and even the Church are certainly doomed wherever Nazism rules supreme. The State is the sole power, and force is the only way to gain its end. Anyone who made any study of the Nazi philosophy will have to admit this. Nor can there be any doubt concerning the truth of the President’s statement that the Axis powers aim at world control.
And as far as the danger of our being accused of an act of unneutrality is concerned, it might be stated that there is hardly a party in the world today that could claim the moral right to act as our accuser. Surely, after the Nazi invasion of Norway, Denmark, Holland and Belgium and the ruthless destruction of Rotterdam, the Axis powers are hardly in a position to read the Ten Commandments to us.
However, there are some points on which we beg to differ with the President.
First of all, the presentation by Mr. Roosevelt as if there were imminent danger of an attack by the Axis powers is not convincing. Even apart from the question whether it would be practicable for the Nazis to attack our shores at all, which seems rather a remote possibility in view of the difficulty they seem to have to invade Great Britain,—the President forgets the rather important fact, that the present war is a heavy drain on the Axis powers as well as on Great Britain. Even in case the Nazis should be able to gain a decisive victory, which even Mr. Roosevelt, according to his own statement, does not believe to be possible, they certainly would not be in a condition to make such a successful attack upon theUnited States, nor would they dream of such a thing for some time to come. And in the light of this fact it is difficult to believe that our present hurry to prepare ourselves and become a strong military power is solely for the purpose of self-defense.
In the second place, I think it were better to inform the American nation frankly that the intention to aid Great Britain to the limit is the intention to take the road that must lead us inevitably into war. We are told that the great majority of the American people are in favor of giving as much aid as possible to Great Britain. This is probably true. But that this is the present sentiment of our nation is itself the result of a good deal of propaganda. However, the American people, we are told, are almost unanimously in favor of staying out of war. Aid to Great Britain short of war, is the slogan at present. Now, let us understand that the sending of an expeditionary force to Europe is at present out of the question, because it is impossible. It is very easy to promise the American nation that this shall not be done, but this promise means nothing. And it is not the only way to involve our nation in the European conflict. The question is: what does it imply to send aid to Great Britain to the limit? Does it mean that, if England should not be in a position to fetch the supplies of war material we offer her, we will send it in our own ships, with our own convoys, in our own planes and piloted by our own men? It appears to me that this will be the next step to take. And that will be the final step to involve us once more in the European war. For, in that case the Nazis will have the perfect right to attack our convoys and torpedo our ships. I think it is but fair to give the American nation clearly to understand that we are heading for war. It is not a pleasant sensation to be fooled all the time.
In the third place, if we must become involved in the war, we should consider not only the question of expediency, but also the question of justice. We are told that this war is once more a war to save democracy. Those of us who are old enough to recall the days just before the world war will remember that it was under the same pretext that we sent our American boys to a cruel death in the last world war. Did we make the world safe for democracy then? How we all were disillusioned! We merely fought a European battle and left a greater chaos than ever. We then said: never again! And, behold, today we are on the very same road, under the very same slogan. Will we never learn? But even apart from this question, which is one of expediency, there is still the question, the more important question, whether in the sight of God we are justified to involve ourselves in this conflict. And I desire to be clearly understood on this point. As an American citizen of Holland descent my blood boils when I think of what the Nazis did in the Netherlands. And as a Christian and a minister of the Word of God I hate and fight Nazism as an Antichristian force. But that does not alter the fact, that the question whether or not our government should involve our nation in the present conflict is more than one of mere expediency, it is also one of justice. And one cannot consider the question from this aspect without going back to the Treaty of Versailles.
If our President in his speech of Dec. 29 had offered the American nation an objective view of the present conflict, he could not have avoided mention of that treaty. Historically it is the beginning of the present war. Had the allies in 1918 not treated Germany as if it were the only guilty party, that bore the sole responsibility for the world war (which today is still a matter of dispute, to put it mildly), had not a treaty been imposed upon the central powers, the terms of which were aimed at Germany’s utter destruction, il am confident that the present conflict could not have been started.
I believe that this question of justice should be taken into consideration by the American government, before we plunge into war, and are able to plunge into war with a free conscience before God.
What, then, should be done?
Senator Burton K. Wheeler of Montana replied to the President’s speech in a nationwide broadcast on
Monday, Dec. 30. He suggested that the United States submit to the warring nations a peace program. As a tentative basis for a just peace he suggested eight points, practically implying the destruction of the Versailles Treaty. Most of the German boundaries of 1914 should be restored. The colonies are to be returned to Germany. The countries now under German dominion or “protectorate,” Norway, Denmark, Holland, Belgium and France are to be given their independence again, while Poland and Czecho-Slovakia would be granted autonomy. Racial and religious minorities should be protected, and no reparations for the present war should be demanded. And the Suez Canal is to become international.
As far as the contents of Senator Wheeler’s program is concerned it certainly is worthy of consideration.
Another question is whether it is practicable and whether the warring nations would at present welcome American arbitration.
However, it seems to us that our government:
- Should consider the question of justice and the Treaty of Versailles.
- If our government should agree that this Treaty was characterized by gross injustice, it should suggest to Great Britain that it submit to Germany a basis for peace that eliminates the unjust provisions of the Versailles Treaty.
- Our giving aid to Britain to the limit should be made contingent on Great Britain’s willingness to follow up this suggestion.
- If the Axis powers accept such a peace proposal the war may be brought to a close. If they refuse, we can at least give aid to England with a clear conscience.
Personally I am of the opinion that the present war also involves the question of the survival of the Capitalistic system of society.
And many things seem to indicate, that whoever wins this war, or whatever may be the outcome of it, that system in its present form is doomed.