The Charlotte News
Thursday, May 9, 1940
Who Is Hardly the Cool Olympian He Is Painted
In his column today General Johnson calls up Dr. Charles A. Beard as a witness that he is not in fact an "isolationist" and as against the idiocy (it is the term he uses) of those who believe that it will matter seriously to us if Nazism overwhelms and destroys England and France, and may well mean that we ourselves will end by being engulfed in the Nazi flood.
Which is all right, of course, save that Dr. Beard is scarcely the disinterested and remote scholar, viewing the world with more than humanly cool eyes from his ivory tower, that Ironpants attempts to make him out.
Dr. Beard is a great scholar, well enough, but great scholars have their prejudices, too, and you can evaluate their writings correctly only if you know those prejudices. Dr. Beard throughout his long career has been the most rabid isolationist among American professors of history and political economy. And his little book, "A Foreign Policy for the United States," certainly is "a tract in advocacy," Ironpants to the contrary notwithstanding.
It is just as well for the reader to understand also that Dr. Beard's "Continentalism" is simply a polite name for what Adolf Hitler calls "autarchy"--that what he proposes for the North American continent is exactly what Hitler proposes for Greater Germany, to draw in the borders of this continent around our ears and make ourselves entirely self-sufficient within them--abandoning trade or any dealings with the rest of the world, including South America. And that most political economists are agreed that autarchy is impossible without totalitarianism--i.e., dictatorship. And without our adopting toward Canada and Mexico exactly the same attitude Hitler has adopted toward the neighbors of Germany.
On This Course
Chamberlain, Churchill & Co. Remain in Full Command
It was a very sober speech Churchill made yesterday, and it is in fact, as he said, far easier to have an opinion about what ought to be done about such cases as that of Trondheim than to take responsibility of the decision. In this country, where we loudly declaim all the time that we are determined to have nothing to do with the war, we are particularly guilty of making snap judgments and cynical criticism about something concerning which we are necessarily in no position to know.
When all is said and done, the loss of Norway is a bitter blow to England. It deprives her, to a great extent, not only of supplies from Norway but also from Sweden. It opens a shutter in the blockade. And it gives the Nazis air bases closer to England, affords them a better opportunity for an attack by their most powerful arm, which probably will be forthcoming, with all its horrors.
But it does not follow that it is anything like a decisive blow. If Narvik can be held, the British will be in position to threaten the Swedish iron supply Hitler must have. If he attempts to grab Sweden, they may well be able to seize the iron mines first.
Again, it has been demonstrated that bombing planes cannot sink battleships and apparently cannot often put them out of fighting commission; the very hysteria of the German claims that eleven battleships have been sunk is a confession of defeat on that score. England's mighty battle fleet still exists intact, and so long as it exists it is impossible for Adolf Hitler to win the war unless the morale of the British and French peoples breaks under bombing--which, in view of a thousand years of history, is not probable.
We pronounce confidently that the British ought to go ahead and smack the Italian naval power out of existence, that she is timorous for not doing so. But the reason she doesn't is obvious--Hitler would certainly seize the moment to strike in the West again, probably through Holland. To let him choose the battlefield has its disadvantages, but they are perhaps outweighed by advantages.
We are no champions of Chamberlain. But it is fair to remember that he also wants the Allies to win, in a way we cannot. And Churchill's absolute backing, acceptance of the ultimate responsibility for the decision, suggests that there were cogent reasons for the course which has been taken.
Nor is it to be forgotten that the Chamberlain Government has struck very powerfully on its own account. The blockade has apparently been greatly effective. And the submarine seems to have been practically eliminated as a threat to Britain's supply lines. Adolf Hitler's long chances and his desire to bring the neutrals under his control at any cost testify to the fact that he is far from being confident of victory.
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