WHAT ARE THE AMERICAN PEOPLE AIMING AT?
By ALF M. LANDON, Ex-Governor of Kansas,
Broadcast over the Blue Network from Kansas City, Mo., March 8, 1942
Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VII, pp. 354-356.
WHAT are the American people aiming at today? To me it doesn't make any difference. To me it is a sheer waste of precious time and energy to discuss now what we are aiming at, other than swift defeat of those who have attacked American soil.
There are those who think it is necessary to state our peace aims in order that we may give the American people something high and noble for which to fight.
What can be higher and nobler than to fight for our homes, our soil, and the Republic?
I say this as one who long ago said this war between the Nazis and England involved the issue of two entirely different and distinct theories of government. Believing it to be til our interest, I advocated a direct subsidy to Great Britain before the lease-lend act was ever proposed. And I have supported national armament at all times, but said that war was not won by halfway measures, or paper production, on order.
However, I now say that the ideologies plainly involved in the second world war, from its start, are submerged by the fact that for the first time in a century and a quarter American soldiers have been killed by armed attack on American soil.
I say that blaming the interventionists or blaming the anti-interventionists and isolationists is only playing Hitler's game. We must let the past go until the future permits its review. Those who continue these arguments, or stir up anti-Semitism or racial and economic group prejudice, in one way or another are interfering with our concentration on winning the war. But questions of division, slackness, and lack of foresight in the national administration belong to the present.
Vigilant observers are united in the need of a unified military command under the President with the aid of a general staff. That means the President must refrain from planning the war strategy, which he could not possibly understand.
I am convinced that those who are attempting to suppress all suggestions on the conduct of this war are unconsciously great aids to Hitler. The idea that a man can not be 100 per cent behind a war president and at the same time criticize and suggest where improvement can be made in his administration of affairs—that idea is pure Nazi thinking.
I am convinced that those who continue to push forward new and untried changes in our social and economic system are the real creators of dissension in this country, at a time when we should be devoted to only one purpose.
I am convinced that we are reaping the fruits of cynical "debunking" and running down of all the old mooring posts in our national life.
Education and political philosophy have been turning out a generation that have not remembered the Creator in the days of their youth. Neither have they remembered the youth of the republic. As a result, we lack mooring posts to tie to. We have been cynically setting aside the political philosophy of our founders, and disregarding maxims as old as the race. Because for the moment "there is no pleasure in them." Under the guise of social progress we have been educating the people to believe that government should support the people rather than that the people should support the government.
And now, when the evil days are actually upon us, we are not as yet in a unity of purpose, bringing in the sheaves of our patriotism. Because we are still being fed sugar instead of the truth, many do not yet understand the desperate-ness of our situation.
The other day I read a letter from a soldier. It said:
"These folks who are always talking about making us happy make me tired. Of course we are not happy. But we have a job to do, and we are going to do it."
That's the spirit which should prevail in the heart of every red-blooded American today. But there is still too much
muddled thinking as a result of coddling leadership.
We must make a virtue of necessity. Literally, our own hides are at stake. We must win, or submit to the fate of a conquered people.
We are called upon once again to make the same sacrifices—no more and no less—that our fathers made when they struggled, bled and died for the freedom we now possess. This freedom actually hangs in the balance, for every American today.
We are realizing more and more every day the blessings of the Republic. More and more we are realizing, as did our fathers, that it is something worth fighting for. We were not prepared for war. Now that we are in it, there can be no thought of quitting, without the unconditional surrender of Hitler, Mussolini, and Hirohito. Our very national honor and existence are at stake. There is no place for compromise here, or for pushing the New Deal social and economic ideologies.
We desperately need "an eye single to the task."
There is nothing to be gained in blinking at the fact that we, the United Nations, have been licked, up to date. The Axis Powers are staging triumphal parades in celebration of their victories over us. Let us remember that we are fighting against the same tyrannical reactionary systems of government that our fathers fought against. To win that fight we must surrender some of the good things of life we have enjoyed.
We know there is waste and extravagance in Washington. We know there is bungling leadership. We know that by certain members of the administration Hitler is forgotten as the enemy, and to them the wicked capitalistic system still remains the main enemy.
I am dissatisfied. You are dissatisfied, at the frills and extravagance of government, in the face of the obvious load we must carry. But we must stay together anyway, as one people. We can fight to correct these things, but fight as one people, determined on ultimate victory.
Modern war turns largely on the ability of the population to stand the internal stress and strain. I rejoice in the ability of the American people to "take it" and fight on and on until we outlast every foreign foe.
We must immediately and forthwith accept willingly, for the sake of victory, a Spartan existence. I do not agree with the President that the American people need amusement. What we need is iron-handed two-fisted leadership. The time for self-discipline has arrived.
All the frills and the non-essentials everywhere must go. We cannot give them time or place in the condition of total emergency. We must respond to the compelling demand.
But the saving we, as individuals, make by our Spartan sacrifices we do not want to see thrown away by extravagance and waste in government. The N. Y. A., to mention one item, costs twelve times our federal judicial system. Dependable reports of non-partisan agencies like the Brookings Institute, and bi-partisan committees of the House and Senate, agree on the confusion, waste and extravagance running riot in the national administration. To mention one other item, publicity agents of every department in Washington are duplicating regular news associations, and costing the hard-pressed taxpayers millions of dollars, besides a waste of time and paper.
It is time that John Q. Citizen, who is suffering uncomplainingly from war restrictions that are going to grow worse, buying defense bonds and sending his sons to the war, should rise up and demand efficiency, frugality, andeconomy on the part of every official, from the township to Washington, D. C.
People are reading everything they can get their eyes on, and gluing their ears to the radio. But they want factual reports instead of alibis and coddling. As I have said before, the American people can be trusted to do the right thing, even if it is the hard thing. Our personal tribulations because of war restrictions are trifling and insignificant, compared to the sacrifice those in our armed forces are making.
Mrs. Roosevelt in the O. C. D., and Congressional pensions, may serve a useful purpose after all, by starting the people on the march against prevailing conditions in government. And if they keep up the march they started, they will get the same results in eliminating other frills and furbelows which this administration persists in indulging in when we must strip for action.
"Let us lay aside every weight, and run with patience the race that is set before us."
Let us show the world that Americans can fight long and hard, and give up not only luxuries, but commonplace things as well, those things that are luxuries in all the rest of the world.
To me it is futile speculation as to when the war will end. It will end when we have cleaned the plow of the Axis Powers.
Behind such a Spartan life as I propose, we can erect a bulwark behind which to outlast and outfight the Axis Powers, whether it be for one year or for ten years.
Therefore, I cannot conceive of anything less futile than talking about the ideologies involved in this war, or holding conferences about the terms of peace we are going to write when now we, the mighty republic and the mightiest nations in the world are receiving staggering blows from all quarters. Americans are not going to have anything to say about the peace terms, unless we get busy and change the way this war is going. Being driven out of half the world, we talk about reforming and perfecting and protecting the world in the future. It would be laughable, if it were not so tragic. Talking about peace terms we are willing to make obscures the reality of our desperate situation from the American people.
Only one thing is certain: there can be no peace in the world so long as the treacherous and insatiable Hitler, who is bound by no principles or agreements or treaties, remains in power.
With that end in view we must rally to the flag with courage and fidelity. Hesitation and doubt will lead us from the path of our own interests and from our own honor.
With energy and with union we must devote ourselves to the sole task of winning the war as a free people should, who know the result they desire and are responsible for obtaining it.
In 1940 I raised the question of how we were going to lick an 80-hour week with a 40-hour week. A veteran officer writes: "It is almost impossible to make men soldiers when they have been in the Army a year and still lack arms and equipment."
We need some tough guys in high office, who have only one thought, one ideal, one single purpose. That is, winning the war. In order to do it, we must be willing, in our standard of living, to let the tail go with the hide. As I have many times said, among the inevitable results of war always has been and always will be the loss of social gains and a reduced standard of living for all.
There isn't the slightest question in my mind that thenational administration needs, and will need, in whatever reshuffling of personnel takes place, suggestions from the country as to the conduct of our war preparations. There isn't the slightest question in my mind that, given the tools and intelligent leadership, we will win.
How long this war lasts depends on how much we put into it. Therefore, it is for the American people to decide how long this war shall last. Because we have the magnificent resources and man power, the mass production machinery, and the men who know how to operate it, the war's duration depends on how thoroughly and how completely we go at it from now on. We can make it a longwar by muddling along. We can divert our energies and our thoughts by a lot of extraneous issues, that may be vital but are insignificant to the one stark naked issue confronting us, of safeguarding our own hides.
We can make it a long war or a short war by how quickly and how completely we get into it. The sooner the national administration and the American people realize that is the only issue, and buckle down to the job, the sooner the war will be over.
So, with the invincible courage of our fathers, let us accept the patriotic duties and sacrifices imposed on us in living their faith in the eternity of the republic.