Chickens of the Interventionist Liberals - Henry Elmer Barnes

Did We Have To Fight?

It may never be settled as to just who killed cock-robin, but there can be no doubt as to who killed the old tolerant, neutral, peace-loving, progressive liberalism of the first third of the twentieth century. The latter was destroyed as a result of our entry into two world wars, especially the second, needlessly in both cases. A decent liberalism survived the first World War, but the second proved too much for nearly everything worth saving in the liberal tradition. For our entry into it the turncoat and war mongering liberals were overwhelmingly responsible. The majority of the conservative groups were against our entry into the war, as were the Communists from August, 1939, to June 22, 1941.

The stock argument of the interventionist liberals is that we "had to fight" in order to prevent Hitler from over running Britain and the United States. In the light of our present knowledge, this threadbare apology for bellicose liberal folly is not worthy of even passing consideration. General George C. Marshall, in his final report as Chief of Staff in 1945, freely admitted that Hitler did not have an overall plan for conquering Europe, to say nothing of the New World. Indeed, he did not have a plan for well coordinated military collaboration with his Axis partners. The fact is that the liberals were impelled to their war-mongering fury by two main obsessions: (1) bitter hatred of Hitler, partly born of an over-compensatory feeling of guilt, and (2) the conviction that only armament and war could keep Roosevelt and the New Deal managers in power. Hitler was eliminated, but an even more powerful totalitarian dictator succeeded him. At home, the old and true liberalism was destroyed and a growing conservatism is now crowding in on the totalitarian liberals.

These liberals usually seek to counter embarrassing facts by raising the horrifying spectre of an allegedly certain Hitler victory in the second World War, had we not intervened. We now know that there was little, if any, possibility of a Nazi triumph, even if we had remained aloof from the conflict. Moreover, in his America's Second Crusade (1952), William Henry Chamberlin has shown that the world situation since 1945 could not have been worse than it has been, even if Hitler had won the war, while the United States would have been spared all the monetary and cultural losses which our intervention involved. There is every probability that, had we stood aside from the conflict, Germany and Russia would have fought themselves into a fatally weakened stalemate, and the "Free Nations" would not today face any significant or dangerous totalitarian menace, whether of the Right or the Left. That this was the most desirable outcome of the war was pointed out at the time by men as far apart in their political philosophy and party ties as Senators Taft and Truman.

European opinion is much more realistic on this matter. The famous English authority on military and international affairs. General J.F.C. Fuller, states the situation fairly in the following words:

"We Europeans are a truculent congeries of nations who have been fighting each other for upward of 2,000 years, and we dislike outside interference. In 1917 . . . had you not stepped in, we should have been forced to come to terms between ourselves. . . by a negotiated peace that could not have been worse than the one established. Again in the last war. . . you got entangled in the European brawl. . . But for lend-lease the war could not have continued for long. Again there would have been a negotiated peace, which could not have been as bad as the present so-called one." (Ordinance Magazine, Sept.-Oct., 1949, p. 96)

The almost universal argument in support of the global meddling, the Cold War and war scares since 1945 is that they have been vitally needed, indeed indispensable, to assure our defense and security. The fact is that they have enormously increased our dangers and reduced our effective protection against any probable attack. A sound program for our defense was laid down by former-President Herbert Hoover, surely no person to neglect our need for security, in a speech on January 27, 1952, and another at the Republican National Convention on July 8, 1952. If we abandoned our world-meddling and resumed our traditional policy of benign neutrality, we would not only enormously lessen the prospect of any attack on the United States, but could provide really adequate defense of our country for a mere fraction of what is now being spent on armament.

The Isolationist Smear

The totalitarian and interventionist liberals will inevitably attack my indictment as an exhibit of extreme "isolationism," pre-war or otherwise. Actually, "isolationism" is only a meaningless smear term, invented for propaganda purposes by unscrupulous interventionists after 1937. Not one of the important "Old Liberals" was an isolationist in any literal sense whatever. Rather, these men were apostles of international good-will, and advocated the only policy which could make this possible, neutrality and international amity. The author of this brochure was working for a reasonable and amicable internationalism when some of the most vocal of present-day interventionist world-meddlers were in their cradles.

Any sane American wishes for the development of just as much international intercourse and good-feeling as is possible. The past fifteen years of American world-meddling have, however, only produced a heritage of ill-will, hostility, warfare, devastation, and incredible economic waste. Even the idea of world government is acceptable when the world is ready for it, a century or more from the present time. Today, we should treat the world government program in much the same way that we view proposals for interplanetary flights. Indeed, it is quite possible that rocket trips to the moon will have become commonplace by the time any compulsory world government, such as was tried in vain in the Korean War and proved to be an incredibly expensive and devastating farce, is practicable. As Captain Russell Grenfell has justly and aptly observed, the main lesson taught by the Korean War is that the worst possible disaster which can befall any nation today is to be defended against aggression by the United Nations. It is fair to suggest that, not since the Children's Crusade of 1212, has there been a more glaring case of well-intentioned futility and ill-timed crusading than the strenuous effort to promote immediate world government, world citizenship, and the like, which is now sponsored by Stringfellow Barr, Norman Cousins, Owen J. Roberts, and others who share their program and crusading zeal.

It is far more difficult, however, to debunk the farce of immediate world government than it is to discredit the possibility of immediate flights to Mars. If, say, a half-dozen crews of six men each should leave for Mars and were never heard from again—or the wreckage of their airplanes, rockets, and other equipment was found scattered about on the earth—this would discourage all such wild plans. But even a Korean War, with about 150,000 American casualties, an expenditure of forty billion dollars, an utterly devastated Korea, a "quitter's peace," and a stalemate producing conditions about as they were in 1950, so far as the division or unification of the country is concerned, does not seem sufficient to discredit world-meddling and the myth of world government at the mid-century. Our world-meddlers, who sought to outlaw war, have ended up by outlawing neutrality and peace.

It may be freely conceded that the "One World" idea is a noble apocalyptic dream which may be realized in fact in some vague and distant future. But premature attempts to achieve it, perhaps several centuries ahead of any realistic possibility, by means of atomic and hydrogen bombs can only defeat the whole program through exterminating the human race. The methods followed by the "Caesars" of the past, who have thus far been the only leaders capable of constructing "One Worlds," are no longer practicable because of the increasing destructiveness of military equipment. The program of the world-meddlers would seem to imply that the best way to prevent people from killing each other is to kill all of them first, so that there will be nobody left to disturb the peace of the world. At the best, such a world peace would have the orderly atmosphere of a well-kept graveyard. Actually, it would more likely resemble post-war Korea, except that there would be nobody left to negotiate an armistice and no surviving prisoners to plague the post-armistice period. The disasters which lie ahead, if present methods are continued, have been described in the book by F.J.P. Veale, Advance to Barbarism (1953).

The most aggressive leaders of the movement for world-meddling proclaim the necessity and obligation of American world leadership. Events from 1945 to the present have amply proved that this cannot be established and maintained by force and war. It might be achieved by demonstrating conspicuous success in peaceful activities at home—competent government, economic prosperity, and liberty for all. Even a little country like Sweden, as a result of its remarkable domestic achievements, came nearer to world leadership in the 1930's than the United States has attained through vast expense and bloodshed since 1941. The United States will never achieve world leadership in the guise of "the Savior with the Sword." After some eight years of lavish financing of globaloney and world-meddling, far from being enthusiastically accepted as a "world leader," the United States is more universally hated and feared than at any other period of our national existence.

If the totalitarian liberals would confess their errors and guilt in the period following 1937, one might develop a little sympathy for their current screams of anguish. But there is not the slightest symptom of insight or repentance. While squawking loudly about the inevitable results of the policies which they have advocated, when these have backfired against them, the totalitarian liberals still persist in steadfastly supporting the very program which has brought upon them all their troubles.

It would be difficult to decide whether this supreme example of Orwellian "doublethink" is due more to stupidity than to stubborness. Nor has their recent baptism of inquisitorial fire generated any degree of genuine tolerance among the totalitarian liberals. They crave freedom from Rightist pressure, but they are as intolerant as ever of the older neutral and peace-loving liberalism whose decencies they have so flagrantly betrayed. So long as this attitude prevails, there is no evident logic in shedding tears over the current woes of those who, with such dubious propriety, still arrogate to themselves the label of liberals.

The English liberals and former-interventionists seem, at long last, to have awakened from their "dogmatic slumbers," as Immanuel Kant would have described them. In a long editorial on "The Hollow War," published in the issue of August 1, 1953, The New Statesman and Nation sets itself the task of "unseating a false god, which progressives have worshipped ever since President Wilson first outlined the idea of the League of Nations." This false god turns out to be the idea of collective security and the dogma that conflicting ideological systems cannot peacefully coexist in the world—the mischievous "We or They" nonsense.