The Charlotte News

Saturday, September 6, 1941


Site Ed. Note: Of note on the page today we find a nice definitional dichotomy drawn by Dorothy Thompson between what an "isolationist" was versus an "interventionist". We would suggest, as we have before, that the dichotomy exists in bold relief today in this country, even if we no longer use those particular terms to describe it. It is fairly represented by large differences in policy between the present Administration, which we opine has leaned more toward an isolationist view of the world, and that of the previous Administration which leaned more toward interventionism. That appears, we know, counter-intuitive to conventional thinking. The policy of pre-emptive war, or the oxymoronic "anticipatory self-defense", a euphemism for doing it to the other fellow before he has a chance to do it to you if you merely subjectively suspect him of doing something and you don't like him too much to begin with--not cognizable within the traditional law of self-defense and defense of others--appears as aggression. But isn't isolationism, historically, that very thing, interventionism its contrary? Read Ms. Thompson's column, its stress on the pre-war times and what led to the war, that the notions of peacetime trade policies enter into this complex as well, and see where you come out.

It really, in the end, of course, matters little what you label an ideology or policy or what you label this or that part of the country which lends it support. What matters is to convene a sensible policy of relationship with the rest of the world which is mutually beneficial, and to maintain that policy, adjusting it to events as they occur, without rash action which tends to upset the apple cart and provide mixed signals to the world, a vascillating, unstable, unpredictable ad hoc approach to governing which offers little to other nations except fear.

It is interesting in this regard to note that since the attacks of September 11, 2001, despite our having prisoners held in Guantanamo since shortly after those attacks, we have yet to hear anything in the way of actual elucidation by those accused of conspiring to bring about those attacks any motive, any explanation as to why they thought such an attack was necessary. Indeed, we rarely hear of any such motive from the mouths of those who actually perform terrorist acts. It seems to us that understanding the mindset of the terrorist is the first step in undoing terrorism in the world. That is not appeasement but rationality. That is not giving into terrorists but understanding why large numbers of people in a given part of the world are disturbed about Western influence such that they feel a need to resort to violence to eliminate that influence.

The answer, we think, largely lies within the concept of empire, of perception of increasing control over the lives and cultural mindset of one's native sovereignty by another, not so much religious differences or the concept of jihad or holy war. The latter appears only to supply rationale to engender esprit de corps among those otherwise determined to void their native lands of empire interests. It appears to have been so in Iran in the late 1970's. It appears so to a large degree, we think, in terms of the perception by many Arab countries that weapons support provided Israel from the United States further fuels this threat of invasive empire, the feeling of encroachment on sacred territory. We do not imply that the perception is based on reality, but that such strong perceptions held by so many become reality after awhile.

It is far cheaper in terms of expenditure of taxpayer money, far less stressful on the country over time in terms of steady fear, and far more salutary in saving lives, to find such an understanding than to continue stumbling ad hoc through the wreckage of war after war over economic differences blowing themselves into the open in centuries-old territorial disputes which ought first be resolved at the peace table, not on the battlefield. That is not negotiation with terrorists; it is simply not succumbing to the same tendencies of isolation which fueled the Nazi-Soviet War in 1941--old prejudices seeking a mutual extinction of both systems.

We understand of course that we do try over time to do just that, effect such an understanding. Such were the fforts of the Carter Administration with the enabling the treaty of 1978 between Egypt and Israel, the Camp David Accords, by effectuating talks between Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin. Such were the efforts of the Clinton Administration in the 1990's with respect to the PLO and Israel over the disputed settlement areas of the West Bank. But the effort with respect to Iraq, for instance, was lacking at the end of the Iran-Iraq War in 1988, the need for rebuilding Iraq's infrastructure from Pan Arab nations not properly orchestrated by the Reagan Administration after encouraging Iraq in its fight against Iran, while selling arms to Iran to funnel aid to the Contra rebels in Nicaragua--a Janus-faced policy worthy of the best actor in Hollywood. That the United States did not adequately encourage such a partnership, did not adequately muster support of same before the U.N., appearing in hindsight only fair as the war was waged against an avowed extremist enemy at the time of the United States, is ultimately the reason for the mess in Iraq for the past twenty years.

It is never an easy task to assess; it is never an easy task to determine the right medicine at the right time to effect remedy of a given problem in international relations. But stubborn and determined diplomacy rather than stiff-armed ultimata, pre-designed to insure that stubborn dictatorships will only recoil into a bellicose corner, just as in ordinary interpersonal relations, is the path to be pursued at all costs by all nations, no matter perceptions on either side of who the wrongdoer might be in a given situation. It always boils down, in matters of war and rumors of war to the old schoolground bully analogy. Being the good steward of maintenance of friendly relations means that the principal must set both or all belligerents aside and find out first what their differences are, determine a mutually beneficial decision and sort it out, not jump into the fray on the side of one bully against another like one of the combatant boys on the premise that the principal does not negotiate with bullies.

Bypassing the United Nations, insisting on a path to war, as this Administration has done, is a return, we argue, to isolationism.

And a concomitant effect of putting forth such an official policy with respect to foreign relations tends to breed a mirror image imitation among the not-too-swift in interpersonal relations. There are lots of private individuals in this country during the last seven years so captivated by nationalistic tendencies and support of these efforts to hunt down some bogey du jour abroad that they vent their daily frustrations at home by finding convenient bogeys in their midst against whom to project all of their little petty daily grievances, hunt them down, capture them and destroy them, all to feel a part of the national effort to get the bogeyman. That, too, is an undesired result of such international policy, as many such people are incapable of distinguishing between such policies and how they interact with their immediate fellows having nothing at all to with anything in a foreign land. As armchair warriors, they carry their wars into the workplace or the school, whether sometimes with actual weapons or only the weapons of provocation, bullying others. The immature and infirm of mind have a tendency to mirror and imitate what they see daily on television. If what they see daily on television has the country engaging in "anticipatory self-defense" then why not they, themselves: Never liked that sucker no how, always knowed he was after me, probably got some weapons over yonder just waitin' to get me with 'em; let's get him 'fore he gets us; get him now, dead or alive.

We hope that the next Administration, whether Republican or Democrat, will bear the lessons in mind in enunciating new foreign policy. Interventionism minds only military intervention as an absolute last resort. Isolationism tends toward ad hoc reaction from fear, stimulating fear in others.

Both candidates express the intention to effect change. We expect that whoever the successful candidate is, therefore, that change to be one which is positive, not more of the same, and which effects thereby a solution to these problems, both domestic and foreign simultaneously. Taking away the atmosphere of fear and paranoia within the populace, chilling basic constitutional freedoms, is, it seems to us, the place to begin. For if to keep away terrorism, we have to lose our own freedom, give us instead terrorist attacks every now and then. For if the other thing, then we have surrendered and tacitly acknowledged that terrorism is an effective weapon against freedom by our very reaction to it. And at the end of that complex, life becomes so depressing and subject to anomic fits of fancy by those in power that we become little better than a benign dictatorship awaiting a more ruthless form of it, a step closer to the abyss.

We note also on the page today from the piece culled from The Richmond Times-Dispatch that Charlotte's public drunk arrests for August, 1941 were up 25% over that of August, 1940. Was this the Cash factor? When Cash came aboard The News, along with several other new staff members back at the beginning of November, 1937, there appeared an article, below the group photograph announcing their new employment, which registered a drop in arrests for public drunkenness. One could argue therefore, on the theory of post hoc ergo propter hoc,that the absence of Cash at The News had brought about an increased return to the pastime of drinking. For one thing is clear, you cannot read Cash's stuff, any more than he could have written it, while drunk. Whether, however, the two statistics neatly correlate quite that way over time, we cannot assert positively for want of being able to factor the precise impact of other variables into the mix--notably the institution in the meantime of the draft, beginning in fall 1940, and the increasing inevitability through the summer of 1941 that a goodly share of the male population was about to be subject to it and thrust into actual combat, thus becoming increasingly plastered on the prospect that it wouldn't be long before they would be taking orders to kill or be killed?

Finally, we note the first piece in the column, "A Decoy?" asking whether the missed torpedo on the Greer was merely a deliberate effort of the Nazis to keep the American Navy busy in the Atlantic, to take the heat off the Japanese in the Pacific by necessitating the transfer of U.S. ships from Pearl to Atlantic service. Again, the piece's quote from the Washington Merry-Go-Round column of Pearson and Allen suggests that America was not at all without understanding that a Japanese move in the Pacific was imminent, especially after the full occupation in late July of Indochina. The general targets were also known to be within the sphere of the Philippines, Dutch East Indies and Malaysia. The question remained, however, as to just when that move would commence. That Pearl Harbor was necessarily involved as a target for simultaneous break-waves, while a contingency understood as possible, was considered highly unlikely because of the vast oceanic distance of 4,000 miles from Japan.

Sorry, no music today comes from the page. It is dry as a chip. They forgot apparently to wind the music box on Friday evening. So, we'll make up for it by referring you to "The Cakewalk" ballet by Louis Moreau Gottschalk, as suggested by one of the "Visitin' Around" pieces of the last week, as well as to the well-made film from 2000, "Thirteen Days", worth, in our estimate, repeated viewing.

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