On the Inevitability of the War
Not since January 27th, more than a quarter of the year gone by, have we attempted any discussion of national or international affairs in this column, We have kept silent about the war, not be cause we could forget it—for with each passing day it weighs heavier on the minds, and hearts of all of us—but because the growing menace has been so apparent, and the discussion of it on every printed page and on every tongue so complete, that we have felt incapable of adding any comment of our own that seemed worth while.
Like the majority of our readers we know nothing more of the situation than does anyone who reads the daily papers and listens to the radio. Moreover, confident that the President and his advisors are much better informed than we, and confident that the ends they are seeking to achieve in world affairs are essentially those that we approve, we have been content that they should conduct the nation's affairs without "benefit" of our advice, while we paid more particular attention to local affairs. We continue to believe that is the wisest course for a newspaper of this type, during this emergency, and it is in that belief that is rooted our fundamental distrust for all the multitudinous forms of "free advice" with which Washington officialdom is deluged.
No one could be more aware than is a newspaper editor of the tremendous amount of effort and money that is being spent in organized efforts to influence public opinion concerning America's role in the war. Every day brings to us its quota of propaganda, in forms both fancy and plain, from a ridiculous number of "committees," "congresses," "leagues," "unions," "associations," "foundations," etc. Much of it, perhaps the bulk of it, is well worth reading and study and reprinting in this newspaper, but we have neither the time nor the endurance nor the space, so it all goes into our wastebasket.
If we in a tiny country newspaper office are thus deluged with more free advice than any human can assimilate, consider the magnitude of the same problem as it must exist for the men in Washington. This whole business of modern propaganda methods of lobbying on the grand scale, is just so much sand, too much sand, thrown into the gears of representative government. We continue to believe in the rightness of the theory that a public official, once elected, should be expected to use his own best judgment in representing the people—and that this is particularly wise in the conduct of foreign affairs. From this belief grows our fundamental distrust of all the organized efforts to induce people to write, wire or petition Mr. Roosevelt and the various congressmen. The argument that, "The other bunch is making a lot of noise, we've got to drown them out," leaves us cold. We agree that congress, and the president too, have appeared to be influenced too much by the vagaries of mass opinion as measured by the weight of mail bags or by the day-to-day count in various "polls."
Congress, after long, exhaustive debate, has committed this nation to a policy of all-out aid to Britain. From there on it is up to Washington, and for every Tom, Dick and Harry—whether he be newspaper editor, day laborer, professor, student, business executive, "or what have you"—to be showering Washington with advice concerning conduct of each detail of the grand strategy is just so much nonsense. It's just as dangerous and annoying as back seat driving—though we must admit that "the driver" has encouraged the practice by the use of innumerable straw-in-the-wind "feeler" speeches, his own and his cabinet members'.
Writing last January 27th, we said, "Most of us agree that President Roosevelt is fully prepared in his own mind to lead us 'whole hog' into the war. ... It is our hope that this course is not inevitable or necessary...."
Since then our opinion as to the inevitability of our participation in the war, on a "whole hog," shooting basis, has changed.
It must seem apparent to the most optimistic among us that the time is past when we can hope to "eat our cake and have it too" in the present international mess. We are convinced that war, complete war, is inevitable and imminent for the United States.
The nation is convinced that we need a British victory, a victory that will be impossible without America's total, fighting aid—that will not be easy, but is possible and probable, with that aid. We have long been partially in the war. Before many weeks are out we will be in it on a shooting basis. These appear to be the cold facts of it. We do not agree with those who say that we have sought this war. The terrible logic of the world situation as we see It forces us to agree with Walter Lippmann when he says: "To say that the president's measures and gestures are moving the United States into this world war is the exact contrary of the truth actually being disclosed. This world war is closing in on the United States from all directions."