World Affairs


By KEY PITTMAN, U. S. Senator from Nevada

Delivered before the Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity, Washington, D. C., March 11, 1940

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VI, pp. 254-255.

MR. Toastmaster: Dr. Brown, eminent supreme archon; members of the Supreme Council, Washington City Rho Chapter; and members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity: I deeply appreciate your invitation to address you this evening on the subject of World Affairs. There was never in the history of the world a subject that so vitally affects the lives of people and, in fact, civilization. In addressing my fraternity tonight, I am speaking to a cross-section of men who hold high positions in every profession and industry in the United States. It is well that in this period when humanity has imposed upon it suffering beyond expression that those who believe in brotherly love should give consideration to the sad condition of the world.

Great races of people, dominated by the brute instincts of greed and fear, have abandoned the teachings of Christ, the natural laws of humanity and justice. The efforts of powerful governments with mass control of their peoples are bent upon the unrestrained destruction of human life—soldiers, civilians, women, and children. In their madness they have closed their minds and souls to the dictates of reason. Czechoslovakia, and ideal democratic state composed of a high-class citizenry has been destroyed. Poland, which through the ages has been fighting for its independence, has had its people slaughtered and its government wiped out of existence. Finland—loyal, patriotic, honest Finland—has been invaded without excuse by Russia, a country a hundred times as powerful as Finland. The Finnish people are dying for the love of their country and for the honor of their people. China, with its 400,000,000 of peaceful, energetic, and honorable people, without legitimate cause or excuse, is being destroyed and its men, women, and children tortured and exterminated with barbarity never exceeded. Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, who have lived by peace and who even remained neutral during the first Great World War, are now threatened with extermination from two powerful sources. Rumania, who desires neutrality alone, is being forced into an untenable position by the Allies on one hand and by Germany upon the other hand. In fact, all the Balkan states are trembling today in fear of conquest by Germany and Russia.

When this war reaches the apex of its intensity and destruction, its results, as far as destruction of life and civilization are concerned, will be as a mountain to a molehill by comparison with the last war. The instruments of destruction in the air and under the water have been developed to a degree that they may carry their destruction many times further and with far greater destructive powers.

And what is the hope of stopping this catastrophe? Our Government, through the passage and the administration of the Neutrality Act, is strictly maintaining its neutrality as between the warring powers and has prevented the destruction of our ships and the lives of our sailors by restraining commerce with warring powers and by keeping our ships out of the war zones; and yet, while this act and its administration has very probably eliminated our people from the

destruction of their lives and property, nevertheless, we cannot escape the dire effects of the destruction of the lives of the best people in the world and the chaos that must follow.

Our Government did everything in its power to induce the great governments of Europe who were threatening war to desist and to reach a reasonable peaceful understanding. The madness of Europe was too great. Our sincere efforts failed.

The President has sent to Europe Mr. Sumner Welles, the Under Secretary of State, to ascertain confidentially the attitude of the governments of the warring powers, their objectives, and, if possible, to ascertain some possible formula that might be the foundation at the proper time for the United States to make further efforts to bring about a cessation of war and an adjustment of the controversies that are the causes of the war. It was a splendid undertaking upon the part of the President. There was some fear expressed at the time that the mission of Mr. Welles was announced by the President. Some thought that Mr. Welles might unfortunately be led into the controversies. His actions in Italy, Germany, and France have proven conclusively that he has made no such mistakes, and will make no such mistakes—that he is only seeking information in confidence that may be of value to our country in the future. It appears that he has won the confidence of the various high officers of the governments with whom he has conferred. Never, by word or action, has he violated that confidence. Some said the President could obtain the same information through his ambassadors. Ambassadors cannot be the recipients of the same confidence of foreign governments as a special envoy because ambassadors frequently in their efforts to better the position of their own governments in the eyes of the world talk too much. Mr. Welles has not talked at all.

The situation in Asia is improving. It has become apparent to the Japanese Government that they cannot conquer China. The cost of their invasion already has been almost destructive of the monetary and economic systems of Japan. In this situation there is hope that a satisfactory adjustment between China and Japan will be worked out eventually.

Both Germany and Great Britain realize more fully now

the cost in life, money, and materials of this great war if it continues to its end. And yet the madness still prevails to such an extent that rulers see no way yet except to continue this war of destruction. Each of the warring powers has laid down conditions of peace which anticipate the destruction of the economic life of the other. Certainly this is unnecessary. It is unreasonable. It is impossible. The entry of Russia into the war through its invasion of Poland and Finland and its alliance with Germany has greatly complicated the efforts for peace. Italy may be forced into the war on Germany's side and yet the Italian people will never favor an alliance with communistic Russia. Italy would not be happy at the conquest of the Balkan states by Germany and Russia. When Italy and the Balkans are drawn into this war, peace will be long deferred. If there is not an armistice before the summer commences, the chances are that the war will continue to its finish.

Now is the time for neutral countries to constantly hammer for the thought of peace. Possibly if an armistice could be induced for 30 days and fear could be allayed during that period of time, then maybe the neutral powers could offer their services. It is inconceivable that the warring powers should refuse an armistice to permit of calm discussion of the alleged causes of war and the objectives of such war. To refuse such an undertaking is to carelessly and selfishly pronounce the doom of civilization. We realize, of course, the difficulty of neutrals approaching warring powers in the intense heat of war. We are aware, of course, that unless such good services are welcomed by the warring powers, they can accomplish no good. And yet, sad as the picture appears, our citizens should be well satisfied with the high and patriotic position taken by their own Government. They should be happy to such extent as may be, considering the suffering of the world, that their sons will not be destroyed in this foreign war, that their Government and their civilization will not be threatened with destruction, and that their Government is maintaining a position that will enable it to render valuable services in bringing about peace, and if not peace then to maintain the seeds of civilization to reestablish it after the war in the devastated areas of the world.