The Far East Situation



Delivered on the American Forum of the Air from Washington, D. C., February 16, 1941

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VII, pp. 332.

THE crisis in Asiatic affairs is acute. Because of this, I do not intend to discuss over the air tonight questions that I might otherwise have taken up. Certain views that I have as to our long-range policy in Asia might be misinterpreted now and embarrass the United States Government in its endeavor to keep us at peace and guard our interests in that part of the world, particularly as the President is quoted as saying that he does not foresee an immediate danger of war in the Pacific.

In general, however, the fault with our Asiatic policy in the past has been that it was not clear-cut. We have muddled along from year to year, acting on a blend of altruism and materialism.

Our position in Asia today calls for clear, unemotional thought.

Japan has been waging a war of conquest against China, the ultimate object of which is, as she has stated, to make her overlord of Asia.

The European countries which have conquered parts of Asia in the past want to retain their conquests, but because of the war in Europe hesitate to oppose Japan.

The Philippines, with the independence they desired in sight, are afraid of Japan and wish us to agree to protect them, but wish also to retain the authority over their affairs which we surrendered on their demand for independence.

As the independence of the Philippine Islands has been granted, I believe that country, when the day arrives, should be treated as an independent nation. Nevertheless, we must not forget at this time we still have there a High Commissioner, naval stations, and United States troops.

Our sympathy as a nation is with China. We have sent hundreds of thousands of dollars to her for civilian relief. I have been head for three years of one of the most active groups in this work. Also our Government has loaned China money.

Now I do not believe the United States should engage in knight-errantry for the world. The job is too great andwould only spell destruction for our people. We can serve our people and the world best by keeping alive in this country free democracy, which casual knight-errantry would inevitably destroy.

On the other hand, we must guard our evident interests. I believe these would be jeopardized should Japan establish a great, militaristic Asiatic empire, embracing the southern Asiatic countries and the surrounding islands.

I do not consider the danger in this would arise from any effect it might have on our trade, because I believe that would be comparatively inconsiderable, and other portions of the world might well furnish us raw materials. I do consider the unrest due to such an empire is of real importance.

I do not believe Japan wants to engage in war with us. I believe she realizes the hazard of such a war is too great as far as she is concerned.

In order to avoid war and maintain our interests, I believe that the thing we should do is to make our position clear. That means first to make up our minds as to what we are prepared to fight to maintain, and let others follow.

When Americans were ordered to leave certain countries in the East, it undoubtedly had a good effect.

As long as Japan believes we are bluffing she will crowd us. The great danger lies in the fact that in so doing she may inadvertently cross the line and be in a position from which she cannot withdraw.

Clearly another thing we must do also is to continue the administration's policy of building our national defense, which in this case means strengthening our fleet, the development of our Pacific bases, particularly our air bases in Alaska. From Alaska we hold their capital in check.

It is through these means that I believe we will be able to avoid war, and I believe from the bottom of my heart that we should only commit our people to the certain destruction that war entails when such action is absolutely necessitated by national interest and national honor.