The Charlotte News
Monday, November 11, 1940
Site Ed. Note: Enigmatic Riddle: Why does "Key Pittman", the editorial itself, not the former Nevada Senator, the subject of the editorial, remind us of Key Biscayne--not to mention that which was lacking in the election of 2000? (Incidentally, the Biscayne is the Army green 1960 Chevy at the tail end of the motorcade-- 23 years, eleven days hence, fifteen days less than twenty-two years after,--the car carrying the football, the one normally much closer to the President.)
As to Armistice Day, remarked upon in "Seed and Fruit", we were listening recently to a couple of historians on warfare lecturing at the Austin, Texas annual book festival. One, H. W. Brands, while making a number of cogent observations generally on warfare and man's seeming inherent need for it, asked a question which we find most interesting for its apparently nearly universal lack of understanding among those who are eminent historians of World War II, a question which seems to us to miss the point, a point amply being made regularly by W. J. Cash in 1936-41. The question Professor Brands asked was what could Hitler have been thinking to declare war on the United States in response to the December 8, 1941 declaration of war by the United States on Japan. Hitler's apparent problem is obvious enough in hindsight: Why would he wish to draw the United States with all its military might into a war with Germany, especially when all of his public statements and tenders were to the contrary, that he meant no harm to the U.S., only wanted an acceptable peace with Great Britain such that he would remain conqueror of all of Europe? Professor Brands suggests that at the time Hitler had all of Europe virtually within his grasp, making Hitler's declaration the more confounding.
But such ignores the reality that Hitler's Wehrmacht forces were, in December, 1941, divided on three fronts, the French face of the English Channel, the western frontiers of Russia, and the mineral rich and Mediterranean guarding northern Africa, not to mention the Atlantic and northern Atlantic patrols. And fuel was running low on his six-month supply which he announced he held in June, 1941. Therein, it would appear, lay the rub, the paradox Hitler faced, which led to the Triple Entente considerations of waging war finally against the United States, in the probable desperate hope that the United States would act instead as broker at the peace table with Great Britain vis a vis the Triplice before waging a war demanded on two fronts. The simple answer of course is that Hitler merely was honoring the Triple Entente, which had it that if any "neutral nation", (i.e., the United States), entered the war against any of its members, Germany, Italy or Japan, each of the Triplice members would come to the military aid of the other. Yet, as Hitler was not known for his honoring of such pacts, (witness the back stab to Stalin on June 22, 1941 in violation of the mutual Non-Aggression Pact), this simple answer is not one. The probable answer lies not even in Hitler's megalomania, though it accounted for the seed to it all, obviously. The probable answer instead lies in oil and the need for it in the face of drying up resources in other places such as Mexico by mid-1941. Rumania's oilfields offered a six-month supply in June. But more was needed and fast if Hitler was to reign and continue to reign as the Supreme Aryan Commander of Der Ring des Nibelungen.
He needed the supplies which Japan also needed for its Pacific conquests, that of the South Pacific, Malaysia and Indonesia. Thus... December 7, not as merely a ploy by the Japanese Warrior Class of General Tojo, but moreover a move for and by the Triplice as a whole, with promises aplenty from Berlin for support for the China offensive of Japan, ultimately with the design to ensnare the United States into a two-front war which was hoped the U.S. Congress and its steadfast isolationists would eschew in favor of the much sought peace tenders, leaving Hitler in place, with all of his then-conquered nations at his feet, just as was sought in September, 1939. This picture presents the Japanese as nearly if not fully pawns, dupes whose strings were being pulled in some part by Hitler's threat of military domination of them otherwise. Such an analysis squares with the history that Japan was seeking its own peace with the United States with Secretary of State Hull right through December 6, 1941. Japan, or a part of it, appears to have genuinely sought some form of rapprochement with the United States in a deft attempt to remain on the fence between the military might of Germany and its conquered European satellites and the potential military might of the United States, the failure of which leading to Pearl Harbor to try to coerce the United States to the peace table, (a la the failed tactics of Lee opposing the Union at Gettysburg), enabling Japan to have regional control of the Pacific, and Germany of Europe. (We do not ignore of course the alternative explanation that Matsuoka and company were merely, either consciously or as pawns, presenting an olive branch to Hull while all the while intending war, as indeed the movements of the Japanese Fleet, as well as the subsequently known planning taking place in Tokyo from July 2 onward appear to betray. But were the Japanese militarists inexorably moving toward Pearl and a strike on the United States Fleet, using the peace tenders as a chimera, or was there a contingency for withdrawing from the attack if detente proved successful in Washington before Sunday at 1:30?)
"Mortal Storm" predicts what unfortunately would come, a long and bloody fight to stop what Cash believed could have been stopped early by more decisive action in the beginning by Neville Chamberlain, as well as more decisive action by the United States Congress to support greater aid for Great Britain--and perhaps even by the expedient of a "quarantine", as advocated by Senator Pittman of Nevada.
By October, 1962, it would seem, those lessons of history had been learned bloodily well by those then in control of the United States government, the civilian command of the military. Though actively debated the alternative of invasion of Cuba certainly was at that later point in history, it would also appear that the idea of quarantine was not too much to the liking of the pols, especially Southern pols in control of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and the military leaders who believed that war with the Communist nations was a foregone inevitability, that war and the demonstrable force to wage it to the bitter end of total annihilation if necessary was the answer to any ill in the world which threatened the security of democracy anywhere.
Perhaps, that comes round full circle to the notion being set forth at the Austin book festival recently, that war may be an inherent part of a segment of mankind--the notion that warfare provides a system of employment for the masses, both as soldiers and in producing the machinery of arming and mechanizing those soldiers. (That conceptualization of the thing incidentally also condemns mankind to the abysmal prospect that warfare, consciously or not, inevitably works as the most effective means to control, by every decade or so, the overburdening of the earth with too much population, especially among those given to violence--cruel and fatalistic as that prospect is in its dark implications about mankind and its primitive emotive urges blinding rational thought of consequence, the case seemingly for time immemorial.)
All of that psychoanalysis of the collective source threads of intranecine or internecine conflict inexorably leads to the idea that warfare is ultimately the last gasp of human desperation, desperation to provide the unthinking with stories of heroism while employing in the manly "art" of militarism, the 2400 year dead and simpleton-dumb Sun Tzu tactics of Death, those who are thought by the ruling leaders of society to be otherwise unemployable, the cointel. pros, those who might otherwise engage in a Chevy chase... It's sort of a lynch mob mentality, you might say. Whip them up, send them out, and sit back as the whipped do the dirty work of the pols, while the pols take their bows on aircraft carriers to continue their careers as pols... All a Happy-Happy Land.
And what Sun-Tzu does not say: You can never figure out that which is irrational by resorting strictly to the rational.
Harder to come by, but should we not be committing ourselves instead to the creativity of employing people in creative endeavors, the arts for instance, or in teaching abroad, as in the days of the Peace Corps, or in teaching at home, as in the days of Vista? Isn't that superior and stronger and far more conducive to the freedom more freely for all than some self-congratulating pol enslaving some indoctrinated young person to teach an unfathomable lesson to some other indoctrinated young person at the point of a carbine rifle--whether in Iraq or in Littleton, Colorado? A simple enough concept, it would seem. Can we not learn at an arithmetic pace that simple principle as a body of humanity in the world, whether in the third world or in the West? Can we not learn the simple notion that time is measured differently in different cultures, as well in different segments within those cultures, and accommodate our collective learning curve accordingly? Arguably, the United States learned 140 years ago that which those in the former Yugoslavia were still trying to grasp a mere four years ago, which those in Iraq and Afghanistan have been struggling and are still struggling to grasp after centuries of such tribal conflict--all, when boiled to its essence, a conflict over different conceptualizations of measuring time and its concomitant mythology explaining its beginning and ending, that which necessarily circumscribes the unfathomable to us humans, the infinite.
But when we see, as we did today, a television commercial for a violent video game, unabashedly promoted with the name of an author of popular military and spy novels, wherein apparently, we gather from the commercial, the object is to place one's self in the person of the soldier-man or soldier-woman, hunting for the bad guy who measures time differently from thou, the enemy, "them", not "us", with the tagline, a quote from the aforementioned author, for all the simpletons to follow with good cheer, "Freedom is not free", well, then we have to wonder whether we have learned that much really. For that set of minds, it sounds to us, would be better informed by a less cheap distortion of the far better, more salutary phraseology, delivered by someone as far back and as far forward as January 20, 1941: "And yet we all understand what it is--the spirit--the faith of America. It is the product of centuries. It was born in the multitudes of those who came from many lands--some of high degree, but mostly plain people, who sought here, early and late, to find freedom more freely... " (But no one would want to buy a video game after a commercial with a tagline like that one, we suppose. ) When we hear such a bastardization of such eloquent lines for the sake of selling poison to twelve year olds, though--we have to wonder: Who are we? Where are we headed in mid-November, 2003?
Maybe, lest we desist from these offensive militaristic endeavors of late, down the Lincoln County Road or the road to Armageddon...
And upon the offering of this day's pieces, the last Armistice Day W. J. Cash would ever see, we provide a memory we have of a past Veteran's Day at Arlington, or more accurately a memory which we have from a slightly different day, April 6, 1964, standing not but a few feet from the Tomb of the Unknown. We stood stoically watching a father photograph a small boy sitting in a concrete chair in the amphitheater in front of the Tomb. Said the father to the young son, "That is where President Kennedy sat last November 11th, son." "Why?" asked the son. "Because it is the traditional duty of the President each Veteran's Day to lay a wreath at the Tomb outside and then to make remarks here in honor of our veterans of war," came the reply. "Why don't they know the soldier's name?" asked the son. "He could not be identified for his wounds," said the father. The son then sat silently, pale of face, seemingly suddenly comfortable against the large, cold concrete chair, with his hands outstretched against its hard arms, appearing to feel something, something unearthly perhaps, as the father snapped the picture. A snapshot in time of a father teaching a young son succinctly in an instant, and with an eloquently brief topical message, the manifold lessons of history across time, some from the father's own childhood, some from that of the child--so that child and father, and father and child, would not be condemned to repeat them, perhaps.
Later, in Time, we saw a picture of the President before the Tomb from that Veteran's Day, with his young son unwittingly entertaining the stoic sentries. We have subsequently determined that the President did not address those gathered in the amphitheater that day, eleven days before his death, though he had two years earlier. Perhaps, the reason for his decision not to provide an address lies in the simple expedient that he had his young son in tow with him that day--to teach, by example.
And, later in time, we discovered by happenstance that the father of the young boy we observed had been eleven years old in 1921 when the Soldier was originally interred there in Arlington; and that his son was eleven years old when we saw him there with his father in April, 1964.
Seed And Fruit
After 22 Years An Armistice Is Undone
Twenty-two years ago this morning there was silence again over the longest battle front ever made by man. The foe was beaten. Afterwards he would deny it vehemently. But there was no doubt of it.
Not on the battlefield as yet perhaps. But his navy had refused to sail out to suicide, his sea power was lost, and at home his morale was gone. Whipped he was, as he marched out to surrender his arms.
In Washington an idealist dreamed of a brave new world, where war dreams should throb no longer, battle-flags should be furled, and the parliament of man should establish universal law (how faded seems Tennyson now!). But in Europe grim "realists" were making their plans, and in the Senate of the United States also.
And what would come out of the ensuing struggle as to which should win would be neither idealistic nor realistic but a dreary compromise fit neither to hold the brute in awe nor to warm the heart of man to co-operation and understanding.
This morning all the fruit of that armistice was in ruins, the same foe, his dream come now to foulest flower, held Europe in his cruel grasp, and the bombs rained upon London.
An Old-Fashioned Story Is His Best Memorial
In 1906 Nevada decided to try out the direct primary, without committing itself. In that primary, Key Pittman, Democrat, was opposed by George Nixon, Republican. Beforehand they had agreed that the man who got the majority in the primary should have the office. Nixon led, Pittman trailed.
But since the primary was experimental and not binding, the election went back to the Legislature for final decision. Controlled by Democrats, the Legislature named Pittman. But at his request, it rescinded the decision and named Nixon, in accordance with Pittman's original agreement with the latter.
It is the story of the kind of honor which is now sadly dwindling in the world, and it goes far to explain his burning hatred for Hitler. No brilliant genius, he was far more honest than the run of politicians. To the end, he retains something of the parochial view of the Westerner, in that he believed that the United States can stay out of war by such simple devices as abandoning its right at sea and keeping its merchant vessels far away from war zones. But he at least saw clearly that what happened in Europe was inevitably our business. If he had been listened to about "quarantining" Mussolini, the world might not now be in the mess it is in.
Next in line for his post as chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee is Pat Harrison. But Harrison is already weighted down with committee assignments, and is expected to step aside for Senator George of Georgia. George has so far mainly showed himself a bitter fellow, unable to forget the "purge." His ultimate measure will quickly be put to the test in his new job. For it is at the moment one of the most important to the nation.
Senate Committee Might Begin By Calling the Atty.-General
Inasmuch as the special Senate committee created to police the election has ignored our admonition to let bygones be bygones, showing instead every disposition of raking over all the "scurrilous and vicious campaign literature" that comes to hand, we have a further suggestion to make.
The committee would like in particular to get hold of advertisements and pamphlets which directed their appeal for votes to racial or religious prejudice. That preference does not exclude, we take it, common libels and base statements.
And if what Attorney-General Robert H. Jackson said about Willkie--that he was "a lawless, irresponsible and ruthless man"--was not an outright libel, at the very least it was unpardonable in a high official of the Government, an official of the Department of Justice at that.
The Senate committee won't call Mr. Jackson, of course, and probably shouldn't. But that alone will not act to abate our conviction that any man who covets a place on the Supreme Court ought to be ashamed of himself for so far forgetting his judicial poise.
The Bird Cannot Well Grasp The Snake's Mind, Either
The Associated Press says of Neville Chamberlain that he "dedicated himself to peace but resolutely made war when there was no other way." However, that is to stretch his credit a good deal. He did, indeed, declare war in a resolute voice, but the record shows plainly that he made it so feebly that a catastrophe is at this moment still hanging over England.
It was characteristic of him. That he genuinely believed that peace was always best for everybody may be assumed confidently, despite efforts to blacken him as a mere cynical horse-trader. And it is altogether probable that, as has been charged against him, he still clung until last April to a shred of hope that somehow a way could be found to come to terms with Adolf Hitler which would be better than deluging Europe in blood and ruin.
In the course of that, he undoubtedly hoped to save his class and reap profit for it, but that was a natural enough and honorable motive. And he thought he would also be serving the people of Europe generally.
His ultimate tragedy was that he was of limited imagination. Himself the cold English man of business, he had always been able to adjust all matters with other cold men of business by compromise. And he assumed that was the essential and necessary shape of the world everywhere and always.
He could not have understood Mohammed and he could not understand Hitler. The latter had said plainly that he wanted to put the gleam of the beast of prey (the words are Hitler's own) back into the eyes of youth of the world. But for a mind like Chamberlain's such words had no meaning. To have comprehended their meaning would have been to look into an abyss too horrible to see. It made him a poor statesman. It testified at the same time that, after his fashion, he was a civilized man.
The Outcome of the War is Far From Settled Yet
Adolf Hitler was plainly no longer so sure as he made that speech in the Munich beer hall with RAF bombs roaring in his ears. Invasion of England has failed almost certainly. And the gallant and effective stand of the Greeks against the Italians warms the heart.
For all that, it cannot be too much emphasized that this is no time for the American people to relapse into complacency about the outcome of the war. Some of them show signs of that. Every day we encounter people who are confident that the Greeks will whip the Italians and throw them into the sea, that England has only to hold out awhile longer to have victory in the bag.
The cold probabilities sum up differently. The cold probability is that, poor fighter though the Italian soldier is, Greece will presently be overwhelmed by sheer weight of numbers unless she gets far more effective aid than she is now getting--aid which England cannot at present supply.
Worst danger at the moment is Adolf Hitler's all-out war in the Atlantic to cut off American supplies from Britain. His Stuka bombers are apparently operating with great effectiveness, not only from the French coast but from Dakar and other French and Spanish bases in Africa. He has over a hundred submarines in the Atlantic, and perhaps many more Italians. At least one pocket battleship and perhaps two are already in the Atlantic. And for the showdown he has three heavy battleships which he has not so far used, perhaps four. And of course he still has a number of cruisers and a good many destroyers.
Worse, he may suddenly emerge with the French ships at Dakar. The operation of all this fleet as raiders in the Atlantic might well be decisive, with the British fleet bound to stay scattered between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic and to keep guard on the home shores.
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