The Charlotte News
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 15, 1939
BOOK REVIEW AND EDITORIAL
Beard Urges Isolation For U. S.
By W. J. CASH
Site ed. note: In the latter paragraphs of this article Cash displays some very real fears of the time--that if Hitler were to win the war in Europe and conquer Britain and France, ultimately the attack could come directly on the mainland of the United States. But Cash then tempers this notion with his fear of a greater threat posed by the Nazi "worming" his way into American life such that internal revolt would uproot American democracy. And this fear was likely pre-occupying Cash to the moment he died on July 1, 1941 and may represent a large part of why he chose to go to Mexico for his year-long Guggenheim Fellowship--a place where he considered, with good reason in fact at the time, such a threat to be great. (See "Nazi Spies In America" - January 29, 1939.)
Surprisingly, at the conclusion of the article, Cash states that he does not at this point in October, 1939 favor direct intervention--a point of view which would change completely within a few months of this article, after the fall of France in June, 1940 and the start of the bombing of London in August. Thereafter, he would consistently criticize the Administration for allowing the isolationists to dictate American policy and delay the U.S. from what he saw as an inevitable entry into the war.
The first of the war books is out. It is a little one written by Charles A. Beard and published by Macmillan at 50 cents. Its title is "Giddy Minds and Foreign Quarrels."
And in it Professor Beard makes the ordinary isolationist look like an internationalist out to fetch not only the Solomon Islanders into the fellowship of brothely love but also the inhabitants of Neptune, if any, and the birds and the beeses and little flowers and the black widow spiders and the snakes.
There is nothing new in all this. Professor Beard has long been the most rabid isolationist among us. He doesn't care for Hitler, certainly, though he feels somewhat more kindly toward Stalin. But he insists constantly and wildly that Hitler is no menace to us, that if he does England and France down, it will be only what England and France deserve, and that it won't affect the proper destiny of the United States. And that destiny? He wants us to retire within our own borders and pull them in behind us. Here, in the continental United States, he maintains, we have all the resources we need. And, if necessary to stay out of war, we could and ought to abandon our foreign trade altogether and turn ourselves into an autarchy.
He means that quite literally, too. He wants us not only to have nothing to do with Europe, but also to get completely out of China and abandon the Philippines. If Japan takes them, that is bad but it is none of our business.
NO NEED FOR ALARM
In any case, "not until some formidable European power comes into the Western Atlantic, breathing the fire for aggression and conquest, need the United States become alarmed..."
Professor Beard is a very learned historian, and ordinarily his opinion carries great weight. But I suspect that here it is largely dominated by wish-thinking.
It is a part of his notion that our destiny includes the leadership and protection of this hemisphere, and he says specifically that we cannot tolerate the conquest of any nation on this side of the water by European nations. What he apparently has in mind is the old-fashioned naked conquest by direct aggression and force, such as Hitler used on Poland. But the Nazis prefer a more subtle form of attack, in which they worm themselves inside the minds of their chosen victims, and gain control of their country by revolt from within. That technique was already making considerable headway in South America when the war in Europe broke out. And if Hitler should be victorious in Europe, I have no doubt that it would be resumed by a far larger scale, and with excellent prospects of eventually sweeping the Latin American lands. In the we actually be indifferent to any South America, normally independent but actually Nonsense high in control from Berlin?
Furthermore, the notion that we can abandon our foreign trade is exceedingly dubious, and though it comes from a man who is authority in the field of economics and economic history. It is true enough that it represents only a small fraction of our total commerce, but its abandonment would require such changes in our whole economy as might very easily upset the whole for a long period of years.
Nor do I think it quite as preposterous as Professor Bayard makes it out, that someday a battle fleet of a European power may appear in our waters, or that Nazi bombers may attack us from an American base. If Hitler should win, we should certainly be confronted with a pressing problem in the case of Canada and the West Indian possessions of Britain and France. Given time, we should be able to deal with that but the cost would be terrific, and the result would bemore or less the complete and permanent militarization of the United States. Such amilitarization would be likely far more dangerous to democracy than half a dozen wars followed by demilitarization.
I am not here arguing that we ought to go to war in Europe. I think there is no occasion for that, for I believe that England and France are going in fact to win this war. But I do not at all believe that it is true that it is no concern of ours if Hitler wins.
Professor Beard's book, however, is an interesting argument, and well worth reading.
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