James Leroy Wilson's blog

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

December 7

[H]ow do you account for the fact that everything that has happened to change their [Americans'] world from what it was to what it is has taken place with their consent? More accurately, first it happened and then they consented.

They did not vote for getting into World War I. They voted against it. The slogan that elected President Wilson in 1916 was: "He kept us out of war." Then in a little while we were in it and supporting it fanatically.

They did not vote for the New Deal. They voted against it. That is to say, they elected Mr. Roosevelt on a platform that promised less government, a balanced Federal budget, and sound money. Nevertheless, when it came, they embraced the New Deal, with all its extensions of government authority, its deficit spending and its debasement of the currency.

They did not vote for getting into World War II. So far as they could they voted against it. Annotating in 1941 the 1939 volume of his Public Papers, Mr. Roosevelt wrote: "There can be no question that the people of the United States in 1939 were determined to remain neutral in fact and deed." They believed him when he said, during the 1940 campaign, "again and again and again" that their sons would never be sent to fight in foreign wars. So he was elected a third time on his pledge to keep the country out of war.

Immediately afterward, in March 1941, came Lend-Lease. By any previous interpretation of international law, Lend-Lease was an act of war — the government of one country giving arms, ammunition, and naval vessels to a belligerent nation. Not long after that, actual shooting began in the Atlantic, but for a while its meaning was disguised. Our navy was escorting cargo trains of Lend-Lease goods across the Atlantic, under pretense of patrolling the waters, and German submarines were trying to sink the cargo vessels; the trouble was that when the protecting U.S. Navy vessels appeared the Germans would shoot only in self-defense, because Hitler did not want to attack, whereas what Mr. Roosevelt needed to release him from his anti-war pledges was an attack. That went on until, in October, 1941, Admiral Stark, Chief of Naval Operations, sent a message to all fleet commanders saying: "Whether the country knows it or not we are at war." And still there had been no attack that would release Mr. Roosevelt and unite the country for war. After a cabinet meeting on November 25, 1941, Henry L. Stimson, the Secretary of War, writing in his diary, defined the problem that had been discussed that day. It was how to "maneuver" the Japanese "into the position of firing the first shot." Pearl Harbor solved the problem. But in fact we had already been in the war for at least nine months.

- Garet Garrett

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