Schwellenbach and Hoover on neutrality

Continuing thoughts on neutrality from last week.

Many years ago I cited and transcribed a speech by Senator Schwellenbach from Spokane.

Part of the transcription:

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Hitler’s seizure of Austria demonstrates 3 things:

1. The futility of contracts with dictators.

2. Treaties signed at the point of a sword are useless. This invasion climaxes a series of violations of Versailles by Hitler. The other signatories never made meaningful response.

3. Demonstrates the futility of war as instrument for settling controversy. Twenty years ago we gave our blood, our treasure, to spread democracy across the world. Twenty years later we see the torch of world leadership being seized by Hitler. We cannot deny that Hitler is the leader of Europe. We tremble at what he will do next. We know what will become of religious liberty, both for the Jews and for the Catholics. It just will not exist.

What does this mean for the average American? Certainly it leads to disillusionment with the instrument of war. We tried to preserve democracy in Europe once by going to war; we now know that war does not work.

(Quoting Emerson) Things refuse to be mismanaged long. Though no checks to a new evil appear, the checks exist and will appear. Nothing arbitrary, nothing artificial, can endure. (end Emerson)

Of all forms of government yet conceived, democracy furnishes the most useful agencies for fighting arbitary mismanagement. What we must do is preserve democratic methods in America. No doubt we will be importuned again to spend our resources in a futile effort to correct the failings of Europe. The inevitable law of which Emerson speaks will take care of Europe. What we must do is care for our own. Futility has ever been the nemesis of democracies. Never in the world’s history has it been more necessary for democracy to work than here and now.

The last paragraph is powerful and hugely relevant RIGHT FUCKING NOW.

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I just ran into a similar pro-neutrality commentary from Herbert Hoover on 7/6/39. This one doesn’t seem to be in the collection, or at least can’t be found through Archive’s crude searches. I got it from a long time ago, and happened to see it in some old ZIPs while looking for something else. It appears to be a radio commentary extracted from a longer news broadcast.

Transcribing Hoover:

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The dangers of our being pulled into war come from two directions.

First, foreign propaganda to inflame our emotions and mold our minds into war.

Second, the preachments of our own mistaken officials which in effect support these propagandists.

Third, steps taken by our government, which while denying that they are taking us into war, entangle us with these controversies which lead to war.

Here we can examine one of the methods of power politics, which is propaganda.

During the (1st) war propaganda was developed into an actual weapon no less potent than the killing of men. The Great War was the first time in history when all the powerful agencies of publicity and the manipulation of news were organized without restraint under the genius of skilled men. They built up skills and techniques before which every citizen was helpless to know the truth. And since that time the radio has become an additional weapon.

We ourselves, when we entered the war, imitated the others. We created great propaganda agencies, and no man dared to question our answers under that fierce organized condemnation.

From the beginning of the war I saw the propaganda directed at us from both sides. I was so impressed that I collected this material for years. The War Library at Stanford holds stack after stack of this emanation from every government at war.

And in the light of what we now know really happened, it comprises the greatest collection of part-lies on the face of the earth. It needs to be studied.

There are certain types of propaganda today which fertilize the soil for our entry into the war.

We are told that we must join in the war or democracy will disappear from the earth. That is propaganda of the preparatory type. Given the alliance of the democracies with several totalitarian states, that ideological issue seems a little confused.

Now my sympathies are with the democracies of Western Europe, but those democracies have resources to defend themselves. They comprise great empires with hundreds of millions of people, with resources needed to secure their defense. Whether they preserve their democracy is a question of THEIR OWN WILL.

We’re told that if they fall, we will be the next victim. I do not agree that they will fall; but if they do fall, the exhaustion of the dictators will be such that they will leave us alone for a quarter century at least.

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What we now know really happened? Tantalizing. What does he mean?

The last paragraph is most interesting and closest to Schwellenbach. Britain and France were huge empires with huge resources in India and Africa. They had massive industries, and their empires gave them access to oil and iron and rubber. If they couldn’t stand fast against resource-poor Germany, it was their own lack of will. And if Germany tried to continue ruling those huge empires, it wouldn’t last long.

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