Robert A. Taft was not, as his wife was wont to remind voters, a common man. Nor was he a common politician. It is worth remembering, as we look back on such postwar American statesmen as Truman, Marshall, Acheson, Dulles, Byrnes, and Vandenberg and lament the absence in the White House, State Department, and Senate of equivalent figures today, that Taft was described by the otherwise partisan liberal journalist Richard Rovere as the "ablest figure in American politics," whose integrity, intelligence, and independence made him seem, "alongside the papier mâché statesmen of the period, almost a figure of granite."
From the late 1930s to his death in 1953, Taft offered a principled and largely consistent counterpoint to the expansionist New Deal foreign policies of Roosevelt and Truman. He advocated neutrality and nonintervention in the European war prior to Pearl Harbor. Less than a week before Pearl Harbor, despite his acknowledged preference for a British victory and abhorrence of National Socialist Germany, he attacked the most conservative members of the Republican Party for advocating American intervention against Germany. After World War II he strongly opposed the formation of NATO and the permanent stationing of American troops in Europe yet supported creation of the United Nations. He characterized as a "brazen disregard of law" Truman's sending American troops into combat in Korea without the consent of Congress.
Why study Taft and his foreign policy today? For one thing, Taft's national career spanned the critical period from the late '30s to the early '50s, during which the national consensus on foreign policy underwent a radical transformation from isolationism to internationalism. His foreign policy likewise had to be adapted to the transition from a nonnuclear to a nuclear world. Further, that evolution occurred in the crucible of national politics, with Taft as Senate majority leader and presidential candidate.
Finally, as one of his strongest critics, John Armstrong, conceded, in the realm of foreign policy Taft "was more than Mr. Republican. He was Mr. American. It was he, perhaps better than anyone else, who voiced the doubts and prejudices, the hopes and fears, the frustrations, the hesitations, and the dissatisfactions that the American people felt as they slowly and ponderously went about the business of adjusting to their changed role in the world." Taft's foreign policy positions "caused thoughtful Americans to rethink their position, if only to refute him, and he repeatedly reminded the country there are limitations on what we as a nation can and should do in the field of foreign affairs."
Throughout his career Taft was pejoratively characterized as an "isolationist" by those who supported and fostered the internationalist foreign policy symbolized by Henry Luce's "American Century" series of editorials. He was portrayed in the press as a provincial, conservative, Midwestern politician.
A politician he was, and not particularly ashamed of it. A provincial he was not. Robert Taft was the son of a president, and as a young boy he traveled widely through Europe and the Orient. He experienced American imperialism first-hand, living in the Philippines for three years when his father was appointed one of the American commissioners shortly after the Spanish-American War. Taft went to prep school in Connecticut; college, at Yale and Harvard Law. During World War I, after being rejected by the Army on two occasions for poor eyesight, he went to work in Washington for Herbert Hoover, then head of Wilson's Food Administration. After the war he joined Hoover in Europe as legal advisor to the American Relief Administration. While there, the young Taft observed the ravages of war, the duplicities and intrigue of Versailles, and Allies' postwar blockade of food to starving German civilians.
Returning to Ohio after the war, Taft entered state politics. As the son of a former president and chief justice, he achieved almost instant national prominence upon his election to the US Senate in 1938, and he wasted no time in capitalizing on it. On his second day in the Senate he attacked FDR'S foreign policy as likely to lead to war and called for strict neutrality and nonintervention in European affairs.
FOREIGN POLICY RHETORIC
Jimmy Carter talked a lot in the 1976 presidential campaign about having a foreign policy as good as the American people, implicitly suggesting that the policy we had—which bears the rough outline of the one installed by FDR back in 1938—was not so good. After two and a half years in office, however, it is difficult to see where Jimmy Carter has genuinely reexamined any of the basic foreign policy outlines of the last 40 years.
Carter's diplomatic triumphs have occurred precisely in those areas where Henry Kissinger had already established a solid foundation—China and the Middle East. Indeed, the initiatives that led to the Camp David accord were forced upon the unwilling American president by Israel and Egypt, whose leaders were both alarmed by Carter's unrealistic pursuit of a comprehensive Middle East peace treaty.
Carter's only genuine departure from the past—an ill-defined commitment to human rights as a cornerstone of foreign policy—has turned out to be merely rhetorical, calling to mind H.L. Mencken's devastating essay "The Archangel Woodrow." As with Carter, Woodrow Wilson was similarly inclined toward "gaudy processions of mere counter-words." "The important thing," wrote Mencken, "is not that a popular orator should have uttered such vaporous and preposterous phrases but that they should have been gravely received."
More than halfway through his term, Carter's foreign policy is still widely perceived as erratic, inconsistent, at times amateurish, and, above all, lacking any unifying theme or principles. While many commentators have offered their opinions on the causes, maybe the answer is simply that a foreign policy ought to be based on something more than piety and ambition.
Robert Taft's ideas on foreign policy were based on liberty.
No one can think intelligently on the many complicated problems of American foreign policy unless he decides first what he considers the real purpose and object of that policy.…Fundamentally, I believe the ultimate purpose of our foreign policy must be to protect the liberty of the people of the United States…so that they may achieve that intellectual and material improvement which is their genius and in which they can set an example for all peoples. By that example we can do an even greater service to mankind than we can by billions of material assistance—and more than we can ever do by war.
Liberty was a comfortable word for Taft. He used it often. More importantly—and this distinguished him from most of his contemporaries as well as virtually all of today's politicians—he didn't use the word lightly. He knew, in the best classical liberal tradition, precisely what liberty is.
And when I say liberty I do not simply mean what is referred to as "free enterprise." I mean liberty of the individual to think his own thoughts and live his own life as he desires to think and to live; the liberty of the family to decide how they wish to live,…and how they wish to spend their time; liberty of a man to develop his ideas and get other people to teach those ideas, if he can convince them that they have some value to the world; liberty of every local community to decide how its children shall be educated, how its local services shall be run, and who its local leaders shall be; and liberty of a man to run his own business as he thinks it ought to be run, as long as he does not interfere with the right of other people to do the same thing.
We cannot overestimate the value of this liberty of ideas and liberty of action. It is not that you or I or some industrial genius is free; it is that millions of people are free to work out their own ideas and the country is free to choose between them and adopt those which offer the most progress.…
It has been a long time since Americans have heard a nationally known politician from a major party speak of economic liberties and civil liberties in the same breath with genuine understanding. Yet it was Taft's firmly held belief in both civil and economic liberty that formed the core and served as the anchor for his foreign policy views—as is clear if we look at what he said about such issues as war, imperialism, and conscription. And it is from this perspective that one must view Taft on foreign policy in order to obtain a clear idea of what he was trying to accomplish.
During his lifetime, Taft was not without his critics. Immediately prior to formal American entry into World War II, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., bitterly attacked the noninterventionist position of Taft and many other Republicans, accusing them of harassing, sabotaging, and obstructing FDR in his attempts to destroy Nazism and pointing to the business community as the Republican element most responsible. Taft's response to Schlesinger is worth repeating.
The most conservative members of the party—the Wall Street bankers, the society group, nine-tenths of the plutocratic newspapers, and most of the party's financial contributors—are the ones who favor intervention in Europe. Mr. Schlesinger's statement that the business community in general had tended to favor appeasing Hitler is simply untrue. I have received thousands of letters on both sides of the question, and I should say without question that it is the average man and woman…who are opposed to war. The war party is made up of the business community of the city, the newspaper and magazine writers, the radio and movie commentators, the Communists, and the university intelligentsia.
Schlesinger, to his credit, presently has a more sanguine opinion on the merits of Taft's foreign policy views. But then, Vietnam was a watershed for a lot of liberals. The United States "lost" in Vietnam, however, and that can explain much. We "won" World War II, and those liberals who were hawks before the war (willing to go to war against Germany and Nazism) remained hawks after the war. They merely found a new target—the USSR and Communism. The liberals couldn't understand why Taft, a noninterventionist both before and after World War II, didn't share their bloodlust.
Taft was convinced that the Russians would not start a war unless there was a "direct invasion of Russia or a satellite country by American or UN troups." No one invaded Russia, of course, and the USSR did not go to war. But this did not stop the liberals' attack on Taft from reaching near-hysterical McCarthyite proportions. The Nation argued that Taft was "following a line almost indistinguishable from that of the Communists" and compared Taft to the far-left congressman Vito Marcantonio, who had also publicly worried that the power of Congress to declare war had been unsurped by Truman's sending troops to Korea. The New Republic criticized Taft in similar terms.
Sen. Wayne Morse of Oregon, then a Republican (later an independent and finally a Democrat) also attacked Taft in semihysterical tones, accusing him of giving "aid and comfort" to the USSR by voicing his opinion that the Russians did not intend to start a war. Taft, Morse claimed, had embraced Soviet claims of their devotion to peace and implicitly supported Russian allegations of US warmongering. Taft's opposition to NATO was equated by Morse with the Russians' "lying propoganda" on the same issue. Unlike Schlesinger, Morse, who also became a well-known dove on Vietnam, never had the good grace to apologize for or concede the error of his venomous assaults on Taft.
McGeorge Bundy, the national security advisor for Presidents Kennedy and Johnson and one of the key architects of our Vietnam policy, was also a harsh contemporary critic. Foreshadowing the pragmatic "tough-minded" approach that would endear him to Kennedy and Johnson, Bundy criticized Taft for his strong opposition to the notion of preventive war, for his open mistrust of almost all military men, and for his dislike of the fact that we were in a great power struggle with the USSR.
Scholarly interest in Taft, and particularly his foreign policy, has recently undergone something of a revival. Henry Berger was among the first to reexamine Taft's positions, and his essay "Senator Robert A. Taft Dissents from Military Escalation," in Cold War Critics (edited by Thomas G. Peterson), is still the most perceptive in recognizing the libertarian origins of Taft's foreign policy views and analyzing them within that context.
James Patterson, in his recent Taft biography, Mr. Republican, also recognizes these origins but frequently fails to consider them when analyzing various Taft positions. In fact, Patterson argues that Taft was more in accord with the bipartisan consensus on foreign policy than was commonly recognized, echoing a theme that he develops from other facets of Taft's public life—that is, that Taft was not a blind hide-bound conservative like many of his followers but instead was a classical liberal on political and economic issues, with a contemporary liberal approach on issues like federal aid to housing and education.
Ronald Radosh, in his book Prophets on the Right, implicitly disagrees with Patterson's foreign policy conclusion. Radosh's two chapters on Taft's foreign policy are the most comprehensive treatment presently available, yet even he does not appear to fully appreciate the libertarian origins of Taft's foreign policy or to analyze them in such a context.
For Taft's positions on foreign policy had gradually evolved into a rather elaborate whole. Individual liberty for Taft was not necessarily an active end of foreign policy; our foreign policy was not to promote the growth of liberty in this country. It was enough for Taft that domestic liberty in a passive sense be preserved and that foreign policy be conducted so as not to threaten American liberty. This meant the avoidance of a serious risk of war—chiefly because of the internal threat to our political and economic liberty from the total mobilization of the nation caused by modern war, rather than because of any external threat to our country from an aggressor. (Taft believed that no nation ever posed any serious threat to our territorial integrity that could not be successfully handled by adequate air and naval forces).
AID WITH CAUTION
Taft, however, was neither a pacifist (although his wife came close to being one, threatening at one time in 1938 to get herself arrested if the government tried to take us into war) nor a hard-core isolationist. He never believed in "peace at any price" and consistently favored aiding friendly countries under certain conditions. These conditions were stringent, however, and were never quite flexible enough to suit his interventionist critics:
Prior congressional approval of assistance. Taft believed that presidents, acting alone, are far more likely than Congress to take the nation into war. Taft wanted no president to have sole power to decide war or peace.
No preexisting obligations by treaty or otherwise to furnish assistance. Taft called this the "policy of the free hand": without advance commitments to intervene militarily outside our own territory, we would be left free to decide each such issue solely on whether it was of "sufficiently vital interest to the liberty of this country."
Assistance only within our capability. Taft always recognized that the United States can't police the world, that the national-security state created by Truman had a price tag.
The people of the United States constitute only 6 per cent of the population of the globe. Our raw materials are certainly not more than a third of the world's resources. Our huge production is still less than one third of the world's production. Our people cannot, and do not desire to, boss the internal affairs of other countries. They cannot send armies to block a Communist advance in every far corner of the world. Consequently, we must consider the cost of the policies we adopt, both in men and money, and we are forced to be selective in determining the relative value and cost of each project.
Assistance only upon request. Taft was always sensitive (and therefore opposed) to telling other nations what is good for them and aiding them whether or not they want help.
Fundamentally, I doubt if the standard of living of any people can be successfully raised to any appreciable degree except by their own efforts. We can advise; we can assist, if the initiative and the desire and the energy to improve themselves is present. But our assistance cannot be a principal motive for foreign policy or a justification for going to war.
ON THE SOVIET SPECTER
Taft's views on relations with the Soviet Union have particular relevance for us today. In the years immediately after World War II, his influence in the Republican Party had never been higher. During that same time, as shown by Daniel Yergin's perceptive book, Shattered Peace: The Origins of the Cold War and the National Security State, the Cold War started in earnest. We still live in that bipolar world, and Taft's postwar application of his foreign policy principles to our relations with the USSR demonstrate that anticommunism need not result in confrontation or an interventionist foreign policy. This is particularly important today when we have a Brzezinski sitting at a righteous president's right hand, daily urging him to prove his manhood with the Russians, all within the shadow of Truman's "The Buck Stops Here" plaque.
Despite the liberals' McCarthy-like attacks on him, Robert Taft was an anticommunist without peer.
Let me say that no one is more determined to resist Communist aggression in the world than I am. I think the Russians present a menace to the liberty of the entire world and to our way of life, a menace greater than we have faced in our history.
But he was not a mindless Red-baiter, playing little boys' games of tit-for-tat, dares, and name calling. As Taft told Grenville Clark in a private letter in 1948, he found it "most discouraging to have the President so disposed to believe that Russian governments always desire to conquer the world."
Taft never adhered to the "Riga Axioms" (postulated by Yergin in Shattered Peace)—the view of Russia as a world revolutionary state, which motivated the Truman administration's containment policy toward the USSR's alleged "aggression" after World War II. Indeed, considering that he was not privy to FDR's foreign policy decisionmaking process, Taft showed a surprising appreciation for his underlying "Yalta Axioms" (again, Yergin's phrase)—the balance-of-power, traditional spheres-of-influence policies followed by Roosevelt. In a speech in 1950, Taft observed that the Soviet Union had
shown no sign of impending military aggression. In four years they have not moved beyond the line of occupation given them in substance at Yalta.
In a Senate speech in March 1948, echoing his letter to Grenville Clark, Taft stated:
I know of no indication of Russian intention to undertake military aggression beyond the sphere of influence which was originally assigned to them. The situation in Czechoslovakia was indeed a tragic one, but Russian influence has predominated there since the end of the war.
In his own book on foreign policy, Taft indicated an acute appreciation of the USSR's security needs.
If [the Russians] do not have the intention of starting a third world war, then I believe there is only one incitement on our part which might lead them to change their minds and begin such a war. That would be the creation of a condition in which Russia feared the actual invasion of Russia or invasion of some satellite country sufficiently close as to threaten the future invasion of Russia.
He firmly believed that the Soviet Union was more of an ideological than a military threat.
The threat of communism against liberty is not by any means a purely military threat—in fact, if we had only to face the military strength of Soviet Russia I think there would not be any such concern as we see today.
Communism is strong because it has developed a fanatical support and missionary ardor, which have spread throughout the world and appealed everywhere to some of those who are dissatisfied with their present condition. It is a threat because it has developed methods of infiltration and propaganda well-fitted to this missionary ardor and has succeeded in building up, even in the most free countries, at least a strong minority of people who form in effect, a fifth column behind our lines.
And Taft argued that the Soviet Union ought to be met in this arena and not on the battlefield.
A war against communism in the world must finally be won in the minds of men.…Far from establishing liberty throughout the world, war has actually encouraged and built up the development of dictatorships and has only restored liberty in limited areas at the cost of untold hardship, of human suffering, of death and destruction beyond the conception of our fathers. We may be able to achieve real peace in the world without passing through the fire of a third world war if we have wise leadership. Communism can be defeated by an affirmative philosophy of individual liberty, and by an even more sincere belief in liberty than the communists have in communism.
By the time of the Greek crisis in 1947, Yergin writes, the Truman administration had largely been converted to the "Riga Axioms." The Soviet Union was seen as a world revolutionary state bent upon aggression, only understanding force, and not susceptible to traditional negotiations.
Taft, as we have seen, had not been converted. His reactions to the Greek crisis in 1947, the formation of NATO in 1949, and Truman's decision to send more American troops to Europe in 1951 are instructive examples of a noninterventionist, albeit anticommunist, foreign policy.
Churchill and Stalin had agreed that Greece would be in the British sphere of influence after the war. When the British announced in February 1947 that they were abandoning the defense of Greece, then in the throes of a civil war (the Communist side being aided more by Tito than by Stalin, who was adhering to his Yalta bargain), Truman leaped at the chance to pick up the fallen British imperial standard.
I believe that it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.
He proposed massive military and economic aid to Greece and Turkey. Taft disagreed. He had questions for Truman:
• Could Greece, even with American aid, defend itself against a Russian invasion?
• How was American "national security" involved?
• What evidence was there that a Communist victory in the Greek civil war would lead to Communist takeovers elsewhere in the Middle East?
• Would the United States permit free elections in Greece?
• Would the United States leave if a freely elected Greek government so requested?
The questions were never answered.
Given the intended scope of the Truman Doctrine at the time, honest answers would have been embarrassing. The Truman Doctrine committed the United States to a global struggle with the USSR, literally seeing a Russian mastermind at work in every local crisis throughout the world. In essence, Truman, having already abandoned the private "Yalta" diplomacy of FDR, now renounced the public diplomacy of his own early presidency and decided that negotiations with Stalin were futile.
Taft, however, went along with Truman on aid to Greece and Turkey precisely to strengthen Truman's hand in negotiations with the USSR. But he rejected any wider implications of the Truman Doctrine.
I intend to vote for the Greek and Turkish loans for the reason that the President's announcements have committed the United States to this policy in the eyes of the world, and to repudiate it now would destroy his prestige in the negotiations with the Russian Government, on the success of which ultimate peace depends.
I do not regard this as a commitment to any similar policy in any other section of the world.
The Truman administration, on the other hand, clearly did regard aid to Greece as a commitment to similar policies all over the world, had no intention of genuinely negotiating with the Russians for an ultimate peace; and intended the Truman Doctrine to shape all of postwar foreign policy.
Taft's biographer suggests that Taft didn't oppose the Truman Doctrine vigorously because he "lacked any cogent alternative." Taft's alternative, of course, was to do nothing, and the fact that Patterson doesn't find this "cogent" exemplifies his flawed analysis of Taft's foreign policy throughout an otherwise excellent and frequently insightful biography. While more restrained and sympathetic than contemporary academic critics of Taft like Schlesinger and Bundy, Patterson never breaks out of the internationalist mold.
Radosh, on the other hand, does a much better job of analyzing Taft's foreign policy (from a noninterventionist rather than libertarian perspective) and hence, in commenting on Taft's support of aid to Greece and Turkey, flatly states:
Taft's vote in support of the Truman Doctrine must be regarded as a surrender of critical judgment. He had endorsed a policy that was the opposite of a limited and temporary commitment, a program that, in truth, symbolized the perpetual program of anti-Communist interventionism that was to dominate the decade. Perhaps because of his loyalty to Vandenberg, as well as his own anticommunism, Taft stepped back from making the deductions of the critical questions he had raised.
Radosh, however, is too harsh. Taft rarely (if ever) "surrendered" his critical judgment. His Greek vote was at most a compromise, one Taft believed consistent with his principles because he clearly thought he was leaving himself and the country a "free hand" in the future—it was not "a commitment to any similar policy in any other section of the world."
In retrospect, Taft did make a grievous tactical error in not resisting Greek aid and the Truman Doctrine. For Truman did regard it as a commitment to the rest of the world. Taft essentially let the Truman Doctrine go unchallenged, and by not resisting aid to Greece, he lost forever his free hand in shaping the course of postwar foreign policy.
NO TO NATO
Taft never had another real chance to oppose the increasingly belligerent "world policeman" foreign policy of the Truman administration. When NATO was formed in 1949, he opposed it vigorously.
It is…clear that the pact is a military alliance, a treaty by which one nation undertakes to arm half the world against the other half, and in which all the pact members agree to go to war if one is attacked.
No matter how defensive an alliance may be, if it carries the obligation to arm, it means the building up of competitive offensive armament. This treaty, therefore, means inevitably an armament race, and armament races in the past have led to war.
I am quite willing to consider the providing of assistance to particular countries, at particular times, if such aid seems at that time a real deterrent to war.…But that is a very different thing from…arming half the world against the other half.
When the final Senate vote on NATO was taken, Taft was joined by only 12 other senators in voting no. The Truman Cold War policy of global "containment" of communism had taken hold of Congress and public opinion. Taft simply had waited too long to make his stand.
Although the Truman administration had been ambiguous during the NATO debate about any treaty obligation to provide arms to Western Europe, two days after the treaty passed, a $1.45 billion military assistance program was introduced by the administration and subsequently passed by a 55-to-24 margin. Two years later, in 1951, Truman proclaimed his unilateral right and intention to permanently station American troops in Europe as part of NATO.
Yet again, Taft strongly opposed Truman's policy, touching off what was referred to at the time as a "great debate" on foreign policy. Taft, as usual, marshaled cogent arguments against a permanent American troop presence in Europe: it would strain the American economy; Europeans would be encouraged to depend upon Americans rather than themselves for their defense; the USSR would be unnecessarily provoked; and Truman had no constitutional right to send American troops abroad in peacetime without prior congressional approval.
But Taft couldn't win. The anticommunist hysteria of 1949 had, with the advent of the Korean war, magnified by 1951. In the end, Taft was reduced to supporting a weak Senate resolution (arguably not binding, anyway) requiring Truman to come to Congress for approval prior to sending more than four American divisions (150,000 men) to Europe.
Although ultimately unsuccessful in changing the course of our postwar foreign policy, Taft demonstrated that an anticommunist need not necessarily be a cold warrior and that a foreign policy concerned with preserving internal civil and economic liberties will naturally be more limited in scope and goals than one whose grandiose purpose is to advance human rights throughout the world. It is a lesson from which we can profit today.
Copyright © 1979 Michael McMenamin
Michael McMenamin is an attorney with a Cleveland law firm. A former contributor to REASON ("Milk, Money, and Monopoly," Mar. 1976, and "The Curious Politics of Deregulation," Jan. 1978), he is the author of a book on the political scandals of the dairy lobby, forthcoming from Nelson Hall.
On war: The results of war may be almost as bad as the destruction of liberty and, in fact, may lead, even if the war is won, to something very close to the destruction of liberty at home.…War, undertaken even for justifiable purposes…has often had the principal results of wrecking the country intended to be saved and spreading death and destruction among an innocent civilian population. Even more than Sherman knew in 1864, "war is hell." War should never be undertaken or seriously risked except to protect American liberty.
On the garrison state: …no nation can be constantly prepared to undertake a full-scale war at any moment and still hope to maintain any of the other purposes in which people are interested and for which nations are founded.…it requires a complete surrender of liberty and the turning over to the central government of power to control in detail the lives of the people and all of their activities. While in time of war people are willing to surrender those liberties in order to protect the ultimate liberty of the entire country, they do so on the theory that it is limited surrender and one which they hope will soon be over.…an indefinite surrender of liberty such as would be required by an all-out war program in time of peace might mean the final and complete destruction of those liberties which it is the very purpose of the preparation to protect.
On nonintervention, the "policy of the free hand": Our traditional policy of neutrality and non-interference with other nations was based on the principle that this policy was the best way to avoid disputes with other nations and to maintain the liberty of this country without war.…It has never been isolationism; but it has always avoided alliances and interference in foreign quarrels as a preventive against possible war, and it has always opposed any commitment by the United States, in advance, to take any military action outside of our territory. It would leave us free to interfere or not interfere according to whether we consider the case of sufficiently vital interest to the liberty of this country. It was the policy of the free hand.
On the imperial presidency: If the President has unlimited power to involve us in war, then I believe that the consensus of opinion is that war is more likely. History shows that when the people have the opportunity to speak they as a rule decide for peace if possible. It shows that arbitrary rulers are more inclined to favor war than are the people at any time.
On a "bipartisan" foreign policy: If we permit appeals to unity to bring an end to criticism, we endanger not only the constitutional liberties of the country, but even its future existence.…It is part of our American system that basic elements of foreign policy shall be openly debated. It is said that such debate and the differences that may occur give aid and comfort to our possible enemies. I think that the value of such aid and comfort is grossly exaggerated.
On peace-time conscription after World War II: It is useless to destroy totalitarianism in Germany and Japan and then establish it in the United States.…Government controls such as peacetime military conscription, which would have been indignantly rejected in the nineteenth century, are given serious consideration, even in this country.…Many people who would indignantly deny any soft feeling for state control are advocates of measures which lead inevitably in that direction because they are dissatisfied with the necessarily slow progress involved in a government where all the people are given a voice.…The war has required a suspension of many freedoms, and the people have become so used to regulations that they almost forget what freedom is. The danger of totalitarian government is that the people do get used to it, as to a narcotic. It is said that [conscription] will teach the boys discipline and that they need it. My own opinion is that we need more initiative and original thinking and less discipline, rather than more.…
On imperialism: It is easy to slip into an attitude of imperialism and to entertain the idea that we know what is good for other people better than they know themselves. From there it is an easy step to the point where war becomes an instrument of public policy rather than the last resort to maintain our liberty.
Our fingers will be in every pie. Our military forces will work with our commercial forces to obtain as much of world trade as we can lay our hands on. We will occupy all the strong strategic points in the world and try to maintain a force so preponderant that none shall dare attack us. How long can nations restrain themselves from using such force with just a little of the aggressiveness of Germany and Japan? Look at the history of the British Empire, how a trading post in India extended itself into a rule over 300,000,000 people.…Potential power over other nations, however benevolent its purpose, leads inevitably to imperialism.…It is completely contrary to the ideals of the American people and the theory that we are fighting for liberty.…Certainly however benevolent we might be, other people simply do not like to be dominated, and we would be in the same position of suppressing rebellions by force in which the British found themselves during the nineteenth century.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Anticommunist? Yes. Cold Warrior? No.".