Can the U.S.Arm In Time ?
Says this observer: "What the United States does about rearmament before this year is out may well determine the future of our way of life for centuries to come"
WASHINGTON—The United States is trying to build the greatest armament industry in the world, an arsenal which can forge the weapons of defense for the Western Hemisphere and of victory for the free nations—and trying to build it on a fallacy.
The fallacy is familiar to us, the British peoples. We also tried to build on it, and failed. The fallacy lies in the assumption that the job can be done with business as usual and perhaps with business better than usual. The fallacy lies in the assumption that North and South America can be made safe and Britain given all the weapons she needs without serious sacrifices by the average U. S. family, without enormous governmental interference in U. S. business, without an industrial revolution piled on top of the social revolution of the New Deal.
The fallacy has not become clear yet to the American people, because the process of rearmament has hardly begun to strain the resources of the nation. It will become clear before this year is out. And then, what the United States does about it may well determine the future of our way of life for centuries to come.
Meanwhile, the free world watches the Battle of Britain and asks in an agony of suspense and impatience how the U. S. rearmament program is succeeding, when the weapons will be ready. There is no more important question, in the long pull, before the world today.
And, at the moment, no one can give a complete answer to that question.
Not even that extraordinary man who seems to slump in unpiessed tweeds at his White House desk, but who begins in reality to bestride the democratic world like a colossus —he has grown pale and tired-looking behind his battered actor’s mask, but still grins at you as if there were no care in his life. Not even Mr. Knudsen, the one-time poor Danish immigrant boy, who has grown into a courtly gentleman, bowing stiffly from the waist, the immemorial American success legend come to life.
Not even the head men can know how the great project is going to work out in the end. It is too big to grasp yet. too complex, and it involves so much that is beyond blueprints
and figures. It involves not only the whole economic resources, but the whole human resources, the character, courage and vision of the American people. For those things there is no reliable measurement.
Still, a few things are beginning to emerge.
First, the actual mechanical problem of building weapons of every sort is being mastered, for here is the kind of job that the U. S. likes and understands.
Second, the laiger job of building an economic foundation under the war factories, the job of mobilizing the basic resources of men and materials to support the new industrial structure, has not been mastered, for this is the kind of job at which the U. S. is less experienced than any other great nation.
Third, the magnificent machine of U. S. industry has behind it a nation spiritually and emotionally unprepared for the task in hand—still less prepared for another decision now' looming just over the horizon, a decision larger than those of Lexington and Fort Sumter.
All that lies ahead. What then is being accomplished now, this spring?
A Ten-Billion-Dollar Program
YOU CAN say that the United States rearmament program means an expenditure of about ten billion dollars a year, and that it should be three times as large to equal the proportionate efforts of either Britain, Germany or Japan. You can say that the United States is spending 3.3 billions of dollars for ships; 1.5 billions for factory expansion and housing; 1.5 billions for planes; 600 millions for ammunition; 500 millions for guns; 400 millions for trucks and tanks.
You can say that the Government has ordered 50,000 airplanes, 130,000 air engines, 17.000 heavy guns, 25,000 light guns, 33 million shells, 9.200 tanks, 300.000 machine guns and ammunition, 400.000 automatic rifles, 1,300,000 rifles, 380 naval ships, 340 mercantile ships. You can say all that and add up the figures and read the blueprints, and still you w'ill have no notion of the size and the effect of the program.
One immediate effect of it can be glimpsed in Washington, which now resembles nothing so much as an ant hill someone has poked with a stick. The new defense organization has thrust peacetime officials out of their offices and crammed every hotel and boardinghouse. Every day a hundred new clerks and stenographers converge in the city, and the corps of receptionists and doormen, trained to keep you out of executives’ offices, must be large enough to repel the Army of the Potomac. To enter many buildings you must have an official card, like a passport, with your photograph on it. There has been nothing like it in Washington since 1917.
But all this is the mere shadow of the solid substance. Out beyond Washington, from one coast to the other, the face of the country is being changed. New towns aie springing up beside new factories. Old ghost towns are inhabited again. Unemployed workers are back at work, spending their wages on new automobiles and in bars and honkey-tonks. Camps are being built for a million soldiers. Every shipyard is crammed. Across the night sky of the U. S. glow the fires of steel mills and foundries, long idle. From the train window you see the wink of new factory lights. And it is only beginning.
All this to two ends—the defense of America, the security of Britain.
To us, of course, the more urgent purpose is the security of Britain. How much aid, how many weapons, are crossing the Atlantic now, today?
When you have examined the figures, sifted the facts, talked to the men in charge, both British and American, you must conclude that so far the flow of United States munitions is not a large factor in Britain’s defense. After Dunkirk, the quick shipment of U. S. rifles, guns and munitions to Britain helped to avert the possibility of supreme disaster, and later the transfer of fifty U. S. destroyers to the British Navy eased Britain over a difficult time, but those supplies were taken out of stocks in hand. Since then the United States has had to build new supplies, and this takes time. Until a whole new armament industry could be created, the munitions movement, of necessity, has been small, gauged by the demands of modern war.
The new supplies are practically all in the form of airplanes so far, and not many of them. The aircraft factories hum. but the whole world asks why the United States, the inventor of mass production, is not turning out half as many planes as a little island in the Nortli Sea.
The impatience is natural, but it ignores the plain facts of engineering, and especially the fact that an airplane industry cannot be built in a month or a year. It takes fourteen months, for example, to get a new airplane model into production. Only two years ago the United States could produce but 100 military airplanes a month. That it has been able to multiply this ten times after getting down to business about a year ago, is an engineering miracle. It looks small compared with the production of Germany and Britain, but they started years ago.
The present output of U. S. plane factories is not up to the optimistic Government forecasts of last autumn, but it is well up to the program of the plane manufacturers, who knew the troubles ahead. Thus, while 1.000 planes had been expected by the Government last December and only 779 were made, this was fourteen per cent ahead of the manufacturers’ schedule. By January the output had risen to 1,002. By next August it should be 1,700 a month, by this year’s end, 2.000. Eighteen months from now, on the present schedule, the U. S. will be building at the rate of 30,000 planes a year, and the schedule undoubtedly will be increased.
How Many Planes for Britain?
'T'HESE figures are apt to be deceptive. All the planes built cannot be used in combat, and all the combat planes are not going to Britain. Of the total output about a third are training planes, absolutely essential, but of no immediate use in the Battle of Britain. In December, for example. 221 U. S. planes went to Britain as against 190 in November. At this writing the shipments of January had not been released, but they must be well above the December total. From now on the figures are likely to remain a military secret, but it is clear certainly that the United States has been shipping most of its fighting craft overseas instead of keeping them for its own army and navy.
How many planes Britain will get from the United States this year will depend first, on total output, second, on the decision of the Government. If all the fighting planes made here were shipped to Britain, the British would be getting more new planes than the Germans by the end of the year. Of course, this will not happen. The United States Army and Navy will demand a share of the output, after failing to get any significant part of it in the past, but there should be enough planes left over to prove an enormous, perhaps a deciding, factor in the defense of Britain by next summer when, even if half the new fighting planes are kept here, the R.A.F. should receive 500 a month.
At this writing it appears that Britain’s supreme need will come before spring, perhaps before this is printed. U. S. shipments of planes in this period will be valuable but cannot be decisive.
There is more to it than the problem of numbers. Up to the first part of this year the United States not only was making too few planes, but the wrong kind of planes. Inexperienced in actual combat, U. S. aviation was producing planes that seemed adequate at the time but were completely outdated by the rapid improvements made in Britain and Germany. Thus, instead of being able to go right ahead with the designs and tools on hand, the U. S. manufacturers have had to redesign almost from the bottom up, and the complications involved in this process are entirely beyond the layman’s comprehension.
However, they are getting on top of it now. The new U. S. fighter planes are fit for the front line of Britain’s battle, and new U. S. bombers will be more devastating than any ever seen in Europe. On the eve of that battle it is a comforting thought that bombers are roaring across the Atlantic in a steady, if a small stream, under the supervision of Canadians, and so far not one has been lost.
These are the present calculations and schedules. Given certain conditions of management, which we shall examine in a moment, there is no reason why the schedules cannot be increased. At the moment all the engineering skill of the United States, the best manufacturing minds, are working on new plans and added output to be superimposed on the existing program. If the U. S. manages its
resources vigorously and ruthlessly, the program can be substantially enlarged before the year is out. And certainly Britain’s requirements will not be limited to the 16.000 planes already ordered, nor the United States’ own demands to 21,000. Both countries will take every plane they can get.
Planes are the big thing, but not the only thing. Even if planes are flown to Europe, supplies for them must be taken in ships, and Britain can survive only as long as her shipping survives. As the submarine campaign is intensified. Britain looks at the shipyards of the United States almost as anxiously as she looks at the assembly lines of the plane factories.
Britain sees here the largest shipbuilding program in U. S. history. This country is now building ships of all kinds faster than in the last war, the days of Hog Island and the “Bridge of Ships.”
The normal shipbuilding industry of the United States will turn out this year some eighty cargo vessels, of 1.000,000 tons, or twice last year’s output, but in addition, an emergency program calls for 260 “economy” freighters to be finished within eighteen months. Every week another freighter slides down the ways somewhere in the U. S.
While Britain itself is now building only sixty freighters in the U. S., while planning 360 more, every new ship added to the merchant fleet of the United States makes it possible to free some other vessel for Britain. So far the United States has sold Britain forty-nine freighters and authorized the sale of 146 other vessels, from yachts to cargo boats, by private owners. At the moment some U. S. ships are being transferred to Panama registry and can be used in the transatlantic trade. Also, Britain will probably get some of the neutral ships now tied up at U. S. docks. But with losses that are running at the rate of more than four million tons a year. Britain will need every vessel it can find in every quarter of the globe unless the submarine campaign is subdued.
Apart from planes and ships, the United States at the moment is not supplying Britain with weapons in any significant quantity. U. S. tank and gun production is only beginning. The U. S. Army and Navy will need the output of the munitions industry for some time to come if they are to be of real defensive value.
All these figures are figures only. They can be changed by the stroke of the President’s pen when the lease-lend bill is passed. It will be for him to determine then what planes and ships should go to Britain. It is a power which carries with it the assurance of victory and a dominant position in the English-speaking world. It is a power which places upon its user one of the most awful responsibilities in history.
No one knows precisely how Mr. Roosevelt will exercise that power. No one knows his ultimate plans in this war. But no one in Washington, so far as I could find, believes that the President will permit Britain to lack supplies essential to its survival so long as the United States has them to send. And no one doubts that, whatever the strict letter of U. S. policy may be today, the President will find a way to get the supplies across the ocean.
That, in rough outline, is the United States rearmament program as it means aid to Britain. What does it mean in defense of North America, including, under the agreement of Ogdensburg, the defense of Canada?
Canada And the “Lease-lend” Bill
■V\7TIETHER Canada comes under the NV lease-lend program is not clear yet. What happens will depend mostly on Canada. Il Canada needs to come under it in order to purchase adequate war materials in the United States, there is no question of the United States’ willingness to co-operate. If Canada wants loans from its neighbor, it can certainly get them. Canada’s policy is to avoid borrowing, if it can. or to borrow as little as possible, because the debt must be repaid some day and would be a burden in the jxist-war years. It will be surprising, however, if the present unsatisfactory balance of payments between the two countries, the outward drain of U. S. dollars from Canada, continues indefinitely. So far as Washington is concerned, there will be no difficulty about a new deal. Naturally, the United States wants Canada to be strong as a joint defender of this continent.
In military strength the United States itself is still appallingly weak as strength is gauged in a world of gangster nations. It has. however, a great navy, the equal of any afloat, and is building another one. By 1946 it will have a fleet on each coast sufficient to repel an attack from east or west. In various stages of construction or design are the unprecedented total of seventeen battleships, twelve aircraft carriers, forty-eight cruisers, 170 destroyers. fifty submarines. Every twelve days some kind of fighting ship, even if only a mosquito boat, slips down the ways. The
world has never known such a navy as the United States is building now, but it takes time, and the need of defense may well arise before the job is done. That is why, for the average American, the British fleet, guarding the Atlantic, represents the crux of this war and the United States’ concern in it.
The U. S. Army is of pitiful size by the standards of our current world, but it is growing fast. By July 1 this nation will have 1,418,000 men under arms, about half of them well trained and tough, the remainder ready for a year’s training, either as volunteers or draftees.
This army, however, is far from being equipped for modern combat. The two armored divisions have only about 400 light tanks each. There are plenty of field guns, but not of the latest type. Supplies of machine guns and riñes will be adequate. Motor transport is no problem. Tanks are the big bottleneck, and that problem is far from solved. There will be plenty of light model tanks, but the new medium tank, devised jointly by Britain and the United States, is only beginning to appear. It will be some time before any large number is available for either country, and heavy tanks are not even in sight yet.
The Air Force of the United States is the victim of its own advertising. Americans see so much of their fighting planes in the movies that they vastly exaggerate their total air power. The Senate learned with horror the other day from the War Department that there are only 690 firstline planes in the Army, and they arc not up to the super-standard required in the Battle of Britain. The Navy has about 2.500 planes. How many each service will have by the end of the year will depend on the number handed over to Britain under the lease-lend program. The Army and Navy each are aiming at about 10,000 planes by 1942—assuming that the United States is still at what they wryly call “peace.”
All these plans, blueprints, figures, schedules, add up to a formidable total, but remember that this is only the superstructure of the U. S. armament effort. The foundation goes down deep, into the whole industrial life, finally into the family life of the nation. And the foundation is not yet secure.
Before an airplane can he made, there must be on hand steel, aluminum, various alloys and many other materials besides skilled hands to put them together. Will the men and the materials be available when the day of peak production arrives? Will the foundation support the superstructure?
Huge Shifting of Industry
THAT is the question which haunts Washington. Long ago the United States learned how to make tilings, but under its system of free enterprise it never learned, nor wanted to learn, how to mobilize, shift and direct its entire industry from the top, on orders from the Government. This is the infinitely complicated and uncongenial job the U. S. is tackling now. It means a huge distortion of industry, a huge shift of men from one industry to another, a huge housing problem, a huge training of new skills.
The whole industrial structure of the nation is being shifted from its old base and put upon the new base of an armament industry which is to be the chief employer, apart from agriculture. The first faint cracks in the new base are beginning to apjrear.
Will there be enough steel when the full weight of high production is felt? No one seems to be sure. The steel industry sees no need of immediate great expansion. The Government sees an urgent need of it, even though the United States is producing eighty million tons of steel a year, more than the rest of the world combined. If the democracies are to have as much steel as the Germans, obviously a great expansion is needed or there must be a large curtailment of civilian consumption, for the British Commonwealth produces only about a quarter of the U. S. output, about half of the German output. If the Commonwealth is to use as much steel as Germany is using, it must get from the United States far more than it is getting, far more than the U. S. can spare at the moment, while still maintaining its civilian consumption and such industries as produce, for instance, automobiles.
The core of the problem of materials is the unwillingness of industrialists to expand their operations for what they consider a temporary war necessity. In a word, is it safe to apply any ordinary business calculation to defense? Just because plants built now may be idle and unprofitable after the war, is it safe not to build them?
The attempt to manage Britain’s rearmament on a business basis almost lost the war. It defeated France. The United States is not attempting to do it altogether on a business basis, of course, but business calculations still are a large factor. They still weigh heavily when the problem of steel, for instance, is considered.
And steel is not the only problem. A definite shortage of aluminum, one of the chief materials of the airplane industry, is so clearly in sight that the Government has had to crack down on hoarders, who were trying to maintain high prices for aluminum scrap. There is worry also over zinc and magnesium. There are shortages almost everywhere in highly skilled men, though remarkable strides have been made in training them, both in schools and within industry itself. All this adds up to no serious immediate problem, but the U. S. has not begun yet to feel the strain, the need of materials and skills.
What will the strain be like by summer? Desperately Mr. Knudsen’s Office of Production Management, the all-powerful OPM, tries to organize the supply to meet the coming demand, but obviously it is not on top of the problem yet. New Dealers, watching the efforts of the dollara-year men, consign them to failure. How, they ask, can you expect an industrialist, however sincere, to be tough enough with industry to make it toe the line?
“In England,” said one of the leading figures in the New Deal, “Beaverbrook takes over a plant if it doesn’t keep up to schedule. The other day one of Beaverbrook’s assistants reported that a plane factory should be given four weeks to get going at capacity. Said Beaverbrook : ‘We’ll take it over in the morning.’ Well, we haven’t reached the Beaverbrook stage yet, but we’ll have to. And soon.”
No one can project the present curves of production and consumption accurately enough to say what will happen at any given date, but it is fair to say that Washington generally expects something of a crisis in the whole defense industry before autumn, possibly before summer. This doesn’t mean that production will break
down. It means that production will begin to slow down if further drastic measures are not taken. The question is whether these steps will be taken, whether the available supplies of material and labor will be so managed that, regardless of business consequences, the defense industries will get all they need of both.
Some steps have been taken already. Steel output is being expanded slowly. The machine tool industry is under complete government direction, and its output is rationed among the defense industries, other industries—automobile, for instance—going short. The lumber industry was threatened with price-fixing if it didn’t cut its prices.
Everyone agrees that management and regulation must go much farther. It will probably be necessary to ration aluminum so as to cut down civilian consumption. The great civilian users of steel, like the automobile industry, may not get enough to maintain their present production, and every automobile dealer in the country, fearing just that situation, is trying to stock up with cars.
And back of materials is the problem of labor, which keeps many high-priced heads tossing on their pillows in Washington these nights. Up to now, labor in the main has been more than co-operative, has not sought to take advantage of a defense emergency and has tried to avoid strikes in war industries. The time lost in labor disputes has been insignificant, and Mr. Hillman, who manages the labor side of OPM, sees no need for antistrike legislation, or anything more than a reasonable attitude by labor and capital.
Nevertheless, everyone knows that if prices should advance, labor would want wages to keep up with them, and almost overnight the nation might find itself swept up again in the old spiral of inflation. Even today the OPM finds it necessary to refuse an armament contract to Mr. Ford because, allegedly, he is not observing the labor laws. When the greatest industrial plant in the world is refused a government contract at a time like this because of a labor dispute, the potential gravity of the labor problem is obvious. Indeed, the central fact here is that the United States has adopted no labor policy for the war period.
A Fallacy Explained
Y\ 7TIEN you have said all that, still you V ^ have not got down to the root of the problem, and to the fällacy on which the United States is trying to rear this vast structure of defense. The root of the problem, as stated at the beginning of this article, is the assumption that the defense effort can be superimposed upon the ordinary business of the country without disturbing it.
The Government is largely responsible for encouraging this theory. It has assured the people that the capacity of the United States is great enough to do two jobs at once—to turn out ten billion dollars worth of war materials a year and still turn out all the usual supplies of consumable goods for the use of the people.
This theory rests on the fact that there are idle men—perhaps 5,000,000 of them —and idle plants in the United States. Bring all the idle men, material and plants together, the theorists say, and you will produce not only all the present output of consumable articles, but the ten billions worth of armaments, and perhaps even some extra consumable articles as well.
The present national income, they say, is around seventy billions. Raise it to eighty and you have produced all the armaments without reducing the output of other things. Raise it to ninety billions and you can increase the output of other things and raise the nation’s living standard.
Accepting that theory, the American people have not begun to prepare for any sacrifice in this war. On the contrary, the nation is on a buying spree, spending the new wages of the war industries. The United States is whipping up the greatest industrial boom in its history, greater than the Bull Market epoch of the late ’twenties. The Fur Coat era has returned to Fifth Avenue. Never were the stores more crowded, more glittering with new luxuries. The Golden Age, lost for ten years, is returning—with the gilt on it thinner than ever.
All this is fallacy, because the national income cannot be built up fast enough to support the necessary production of uneconomic war goods and to support, at the same time, an increase in consumable goods-—a fact, by the way, which we in Canada have just begun to realize.
To increase the output of consumable goods in a large way requires new factories that cannot be built overnight. It requires skills that cannot be built overnight. And, besides, there is the ever-present and unavoidable problem of bottlenecks— shortages of individual materials or skills. You cannot suddenly bring unskilled men and raw materials together to produce a maximum of goods—not under the free capitalism of the United States, anyway.
But assume that it is possible. Still the problem is not solved. A ten-billion-dollar drain is not the end of the defense program. A ten-billion-dollar program might be sufficient to defend North America. It is not enough to defend North and South America against victorious dictators in Europe and Asia. To avoid the necessity of defending North and South America, the United States has virtually underwritten British victory, so far as supplies are concerned. The amount of supplies needed for that job is not known yet. Britain’s present weapons should beat Germany back from Britain, but to beat Germany back out of the occupied countries of Europe, to secure complete victory and a sound peace, will require efforts, output, materials, weapons such as men have never seen before.
Britain is getting from the United States this year roughly three hundred million dollars worth of supplies a month. This is probably not equal to the extra production which Hitler is taking from his conquered territories, and Germany’s own production, of course, is far greater than that of Britain. Obviously Britain needs far more than it is getting now for the long pull of the war. To achieve that, United States war production must increase.
U. S. Must Decide
BRITAIN and Germany are devoting roughly half their energy and working day to armaments. In the coming year, if the United States produces ten billion dollars worth of armaments, it will utilize about an eighth of its time for defense. If this could be doubled, and if Britain could get half of the U. S. armament production, then the balance in weapons as between Britain and Germany could be redressed overwhelmingly in Britain’s favor. Sooner or later the United States must face this simple question: Is it
going to produce enough war materials to provide Britain with a certain victory over Germany? That question has not been faced yet.
It is obvious that as long as Americans accept the have-your-cake-and-eat-it theory of defense, as long as they are behind a United States Maginot Line, they will be spiritually and emotionally unprepared for the inevitable economic shocks that will come out of the defense program, if it is a program adequate for the job in hand.
Many Americans understand this perfectly well. Even the man on the street senses vaguely that things are changing and will become more difficult. Yet the Government itself has encouraged the illusion that the nation can have its cake and eat it—even thç illusion that the frosting on the cake may be increased. Ultimately the Government itself will face the consequences of the fallacy.
The Government is budgeting to spend seventeen billions in the year starting
July 1 next and to collect eight billions. Obviously this is unsound and would mean a dangerous borrowing of inflationary bank credit.
The first test of the country’s ability to manage its gigantic task will be the readiness of Congress to put on more taxes. So far Congress has moved so gingerly that about the only new tax burden the citizen notices is the four cents extra he pays for his forty-cent ticket at the neighborhood movie. There will be a rise in the income tax collected in the spring, but compared with the British, or with us in Canada, the American doesn’t know yet what taxes are. When you tell him what the Canadian Government is doing and plans to do, he doesn’t believe you at first, and when you persuade him with actual figures, he shudders and immediately orders another round of drinks.
Taxes will be the first test and, if that test is met, then the taxpayer—especially the taxpayer in the middle income group— will learn at once that the war is definitely reducing his power to purchase goods.
Materials and Labor
TI IF NEXT test will be the willingness of business to face grave inconveniences in securing supplies of materials and labor. For example, automobile production mayhave to be reduced by direct regulation of raw materials. Still another test will be the willingness of the people to accept reduced supplies of some luxuries. This is not a serious one, to be sure, for the U. S. family will not be asked to give up much— a new radio or electrical icebox, perhaps, or a new set of aluminum pots. But the fact still remains that the U. S. family does not know that yet; on the contrary it exacts just the opposite.
No nation under such a delusion, in such a mood, can achieve its maximum in producing for defense. No government facing a people with such an outlook, can hope to get the most in co-operation out of capital or out of labor. So long as rearmament is attempted on the basis of business as usual, it will not succeed, as Britain found almost too late, as France found far too late, as we in Canada arc beginning to find out just in time.
If the United States is spiritually and emotionally unprepared for defense, much less is it prepared for war. And yet the decision of war or peace is coming over the horizon now.
The policy today is all aid to Britain “short of war,” and the country as a whole is behind it. The whole nation is prepared to gioe Britain billions of dollars worth of labor and materials where it has asked money for them up to now. But suppose aid short of war is not enough to defeat Germany?
In his heart every American sees that issue coming ever nearer. Glibly the average man says that of course the U. S., already involved in an economic war, will shortly enter the “shooting war.” He says that with his lips, he may even think it in his mind, but emotionally he is not ready for war. Emotionally this great nation has not faced the ultimate decision which may be forced upon it some day, and perhaps before this year is out. So when you ask the final and inevitable question, whether the U. S. is going into the war, I can give only the same answer that I found everywhere in the country during last autumn’s election campaign and recorded for this magazine then.
The answer is that the average American does not want to go into the war, is not ready to go into the war, will try to stay out of the war, but feels in his bones that escape in the end will be impossible, if the war lasts long.
That is a pretty vague answer, but any answer more definite would be false, for the United States has not yet made up its mind, has not yet faced its decision, and still prays that the decision may be avoided. But if you think that the U. S. is standing still, you should come to Washingtan and see how it is moving forward at an unprecedented speed.
When the war started, the United States was resolved to ship no war materials to any belligerent. At this writing Britain can fet no war materials without paying for them, and Britain’s money is running out. In a few weeks Britain will get war materials for nothing. All this distance the United States has travelled in little more than a year. All the high resolves of neutrality it has thrown into discard. Today tn Washington the whole theory of Isolationism, the basic policy of this nation for twenty years, is dying before the nation’s eyes.
In the fight against the lease-lend bill, the Isolationists are shooting their final bolt, making their last stand, and they know it. Day after day old Hiram Johnson, one of the band of “wilful men” who wrecked the League of Nations in the Senane, sits and broods like a spent eagle, while his life’s work dissolves before him, while the Lindberghs, Thomases, Lafollettes, Woods, and assorted Little Americans try in vain to stop the most obvious and perhaps the most important movement under way in the human family —the movement of the United States back into the world. And at the other end of Penrsylvania Avenue, a greater man, rising above grievous physical handicap, skilfully leads and guides that movement, never pushing too hard nor letting it pause.
This man is a magnificent improvisor, a supreme master of the moment. Quite
probably he has not thought this movement through, any more than he thought through his New Deal. Perhaps for him one battle, one world, is enough at a time. But he sweeps away all the tangle of simulation and doubt which besets his fellows, and he sees one thing clearly—that whatever else happens, his New Deal, everything he stands for, the economic system of the United States’ the U. S. way of life, would go under with Britain, and Britain will never go under if he has the power to prevent it.
He, better than anyone, must see the core of the United States, problem. This, of course, is the difficulty of doing what is essentially a war job without going to war, which latter move would mean gaining the enormous civilian co-operation and sacrifice of wartime. He, better than anyone, must understand that eventually the U. S. must decide finally whether the defense of Britain is the defense of this continent, and, if it is, whether the United States is going to supply Britain with its full needs.
It is the nation’s indecision on this question, the confusion and doubt, the conflict of evidence, that stands in the way of an all-out armament effort. The United States thus is at the crossroads. Soon it must choose what road it is going to follow.
Editor’s Note—Revised figures issued on Feb. 19 by W. S. Knudsenfor U. S. aircraft production in January showed a total for the month of 1,036 planes.