Wilson’s Armed Isolation

Westbrook Pegler

Spartanburg Herald-Journal/May 22, 1940

Washington, May 21.—Woodrow Wilson, in the course of his speaking campaign of September, 1919, on behalf of the League of Nations, seasoned his remarks with some paragraphs which today are of more interest than they were then. Mr. Wilson, of course, had a dreamy faith in the pledges of nations and the efficacy of scorn, and his exhortations all rang with a rather querulous anger at those skeptical men who did not share his confidence and would not commit the United States to the responsibilities which he would have had the nation assume. The wisdom or folly of his proposals can only be debated, never determined, but they were rejected y the people to whom he carried his case, who then having made their decision, got plastered  on jump-skiddy and kitchen gin and went lurching into the era of wonderful nonsense, with a hey nonny-nonny.

On Sept. 5, 1919, Mr. Wilson stopped at St. Louis and, in a speech at the coliseum, said:

“What did the Germans do when they got into Belgium? Every piece of machinery that could be taken away was taken away. If it was too big to take away, experts directed the way in which it should be injured so that it could never be used again, and this, because there were textile industries and iron industries in Belgium which the Germans hated the Belgians for having. This war, in its inception, was a commercial war. It was not a political war.

“Very well, then, if we must stand apart and be the hostile rivals of the rest of the world, we must be ready, physically, for anything that comes. We must have a great standing army. We must see to it that every man in America is trained to arms. We must see to it that there are munitions and guns enough for an army that means a mobilized nation. That they are not laid up in store but that they are kept up to date, ready for use tomorrow. That we are a nation in arms. Because you cannot be unfriendly to everybody without being ready that everybody shall be unfriendly to you. And what does that mean? Reduction of taxes? No. Not only the continuation of the present taxes but the increase of the present taxes.

“And it means something very much more serious than that,” he continued. “We can stand that so far as the expense is concerned, but, what is much more serious, we have got to have the sort of organization which is the only kind of organization that can handle arms of that sort. We may say what we please of the German government that has been destroyed, but it was the only sort of government that could handle an armed nation. You cannot handle an armed nation by vote. You cannot handle an armed nation if it is democratic, because democracies do not go to war that way. You have got to have a concentrated, militaristic organization of government to run a nation of that sort. You have got to think of the president not as the chief counselor elected for a little while, but as the man meant constantly and every day to be the commander-in-chief of the army and navy ready to order them to any part of the world where the threat of war is a menace to his own people. And you cannot do that under free debate. You have the alternative, armed isolation or peaceful partnership.”

In Des Moines, the next day, Mr. Wilson said:

“The isolation of the United States is at an end, not because we choose to go into the politics of the world, but because by the sheer genius of our people and the growth of our power we have become a determining factor in the history of mankind. After you have become a determining factor you cannot remain isolated whether you want to or not. Isolation ended by the processes of history, not by our independent choice.”

And on Sept. 12, at Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, he said to the subjects of William E. Borah:

“You cannot trade with a world disordered, and if you do not trade you draw your own industries within a narrow and narrower limit. This great state, with its untold natural resources, with its great undeveloped resources, will have to stand for a long generation stagnant, because there are no distant markets calling for those things.”

As to whether the alternative would have worked, there is no testimony but only opinion, but some of the prophetic phrases which the war president cried at an indifferent people about the whirl into which a craze for rash and noisy pleasure with appetites dominating all life, have now been upheld.

And, after 20 years, the next Democratic president in a war speech to Congress speaks from the neck and not from the heart when he says” There are some who say that democracy cannot cope with the new techniques of government developed in recent years by a few countries which deny the freedoms which we maintain are essential to our democratic way of life. That I reject.:”

In rejecting that proposition, Mr. Roosevelt, for once, disputes his old chief.

(Source: Google News, https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=SFOYbPikdlgC&dat=19400522&printsec=frontpage&hl=en)