World Outlook Needed for Americans


By WENDELL L. WILLKIE, Presidential Candidate in 1940

Delivered at Rochester University, April 23, 1942

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VII, pp. 457-459.

LAST week American bombers carried the war to the enemy. In Burma, on the island of Timor and in J the Philippines we struck at the Japanese supply lines. On top of that we bombed Tokio. Hitherto we Americans have interested ourselves primarily in our own affairs. We have lived surrounded by protective distances, which automatically kept aggressors from our shores. And we had so much work to do at home that we did not worry much about the rest of the world. But that long comfortable era has come to an end, as the bombing of Tokio proves. If we can do it to others, they can do it to us.

And so there lies ahead of us now only one common-sense choice. We are a part of the world, and if we are to live well in that world we must at once set about educating ourselves in the affairs of peoples and nations thousands of miles from our shores. We must understand what motivates them, what their hopes are, what their difficulties are, and how their way of life can be fitted in with ours. We must work with them to a common end.

We can best fulfill the lives of the men who are struck down in this war by the creation of a world in which those who survive, and their sons and daughters, can live in freedom and in peace.

That is a high aim. It is an aim to justify all our efforts and sacrifices, and our lives if necessary. We cannot wait to begin work on that aim until the war is "over." That will already be too late. We must begin now to prepare ourselves for the responsibilities and decisions of the future.

The Issues at Stake

If we are to win a true victory in the Far East, we must have a clear understanding of the people of that great area. If we hope to prevent war in the future, we must know why we are at war today.

For many years we have lived in ignorance of the true ambitions and capabilities of Japan. I think you will agree that we have underrated the Japanese, as a result. We knew vaguely that the Japanese are trying to build an empire. But few realized how great that empire would be, if it were built, or how old the plans for it are. The present Japanese drive is no flash in the pan. Japan was dreaming of empire as long ago as the sixteenth century, when her great dictator Hideyoshi planned to put together a huge Asiatic structure composed of Japan, Corea, Formosa, China, India, Persia, the Philippines and the islands of the south seas.

For centuries Japan locked herself away from the world in a kind of medieval fastness; but the Asiatic empire has smouldered in the background of her politics and her dreams. The urge for that empire burst into flame in our own time. Japan seized Corea in 1910. She struck into Manchuria in 1931. And in 1927 the famed Baron Tanaka wrote a memorandum. The authenticity of this memorandum has been questioned by some, maintained by others. In view of what has recently happened, the case for its authenticity is stronger. I quote:

"To conquer China," wrote Tanaka, "We must first conquer Manchuria and Mongolia. To conquer the worldwe must first conquer China. If we can conquer China all other Asiatic countries . . . will fear us and capitulate before us. . . . With all the resources of China at our disposal, we shall move on to the conquest of India."

And yet even ten years after that document was supposedly written we Americans were making the fatal mistake of trying to solve our troubles with purely domestic reforms. Our Administration had a policy in those days that was basically isolationist, despite the efforts of Cordell Hull. It was trying to teach us to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps, with the N.R.A., spending theories and strictly domestic economies. It refused to stabilize international currencies, or to improve international credit, or to approach our economic problem from an international angle. By 1937, when Japan attacked China, to begin a new stage in her struggle for empire, the United States was tied up in isolationist legislation which few persons dared to combat. The result of this was that we rendered more aid to Japan than to China, and thus furthered the ambitions of the Japanese.

Can any one doubt that henceforth we must concern ourselves intimately with matters beyond our own doorstep? Japan's ambitions have now disrupted us industrially. She has cut off all our rubber. She has cut off our tin. She has cut off many minor materials from the Far East, which we don't absolutely need, but which make life pleasanter. She has slaughtered our political brothers, the gallant Filipinos. She has treacherously murdered our own flesh and blood. And—however ridiculous the gesture—one of her submarines has actually shelled our west coast.

Seek to Rule Third of Globe

Furthermore, the Japanese have now conquered a great part of that empire that Baron Tanaka supposedly outlined. Besides Corea and Manchuria they hold the entire coast of China. They hold the major cities of the Philippines. They have conquered virtually all the East Indies. They have taken half of Burma and cut the Burma road. They control at least the eastern half of the Indian Ocean and are knocking on the very doors of Calcutta.

They have gone far enough, indeed, for us to grasp a picture of what the world would be like if they should succeed. Suppose, for instance, that India should fall. Suppose that China, cut off from all aid, should be strangled and conquered. Suppose that a failure to deliver supplies and reinforcements should result in the collapse of Australia. I do not believe that these things are going to happen, but to deny them as possibilities is simply to repeat the tragic mistakes of the past.

If all this were to come about, we should witness the creation not merely of a great empire but of the biggest empire in history; an empire composed of about a billion people living on twenty million square miles of land; an empire occupying one-third of the earth and including one-half of its total population. That is the Japanese dream.

Moreover, this empire would include within itself almost every resource that can be imagined. It would be self-sufficient, whether for peace-time industry or for war. Japan would then have iron from the Philippines, copper fromthe Philippines and Burma, tin from Malaya, oil from many islands, chrome, manganese, antimony, bauxite for aluminum, and more rubber than she could ever use. Then it would not be the United States that was known as the bountiful island, but the so-called Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. And all this would not exist for the benefit of the billion people. It would all be subject to the ruling class, the military leaders, the statesmen, the big financiers and the technologists—the tiny body of an octopus—centered on Tokio.

I have, as you know, unbounded faith in the courage, the enterprise and the destiny of the American people. But I say to you that if Americans were forced to live hereafter face to face with an empire of such dimensions and with such aims our way of life would be little better than an armed camp and our vaunted freedom would be little more than a fond hope. We should live in continual alarm, in endless war, under crushing armaments which it would be our constant endeavor to increase. Neither peace nor prosperity, neither freedom nor justice, could flourish in such a struggle for existence. And it would not matter in the least how wide the Pacific Ocean is.

Chinese Won Time for U. S.

Now, I believe that we are going to avoid that calamity. I believe we are going to avoid it by striking now before it is too late and by striking hard, over and over again, until we have beaten those ambitious schemers to their knees. But if we do thus succeed in destroying that super-empire before it is created we must remember one imperishable fact—that it might already be too late for us to strike had it not been for the desperate resistance, through five long, heart-breaking years of the Chinese people.

The Japanese, it is now clear, hoped to crush China in order the more easily to conquer the Philippines, Malaya, Burma and India. They did, indeed, succeed in driving the Chinese back from the sea. But the indomitable resistance of the Chinese people in the interior of China forced the Japanese to adopt a different and more difficult plan. It became necessary to go around China. Instead of merely mopping up the Philippines and the East Indies after China was conquered, the Japanese had to attack those islands first. And they have had to extend their lines all the way around to Burma in order to cut off aid to the Chinese interior. It is this strategical fact which gives us our chance. So long as the Chinese hold out, the Japanese are vulnerable to attacks on their supply lines. And if these lines are permanently cut their vast plan will collapse.

It is not particularly pleasant for Americans to look back across the last five years, during which so few realized the importance to our entire civilization of the Chinese resistance. While we were absorbed in our bitter quarrels and isolationist delusions we never took time to understand the heroic role that the Chinese were playing, let alone to send them substantial help. Now we are in a great war to retrieve that error. And we shall retrieve it.

The Chinese outlook on the future is almost the opposite from that of the Japanese. They do not seek empire. They seek merely to hold and to develop their own vast and lovely homeland. China is much larger than the United States, both in area and population. It contains within its boundaries many rich resources. On the other hand, it is not self-sufficient—and neither are we. This fact does not disturb the Chinese or make them want to conquer the world, any more than it does us. Self-sufficiency is a delusion of the totalitarians. In a truly democratic world anation would have no more need of self-sufficiency than the State of New York has of making itself independent of the State of Pennsylvania.

China's Heroic Struggle

Of course, we must not expect Chinese ideas of personal liberty and democratic government to be the same as ours Some of their ideas may seem to us too radical, others may seem ridiculously archaic. We should remember that in their eyes some of our customs appear ridiculous and even distasteful. We must keep our minds fixed upon the essential fact, that the Chinese want to be free—free in their own way to govern their lives for the benefit and happiness of their own people. That fact is what binds Chinese and Americans together. Each will find its own freedom dependent upon the freedom of the other. China and the United States are today fighting for the same thing. They are fighting for a chance to show that freedom, alone among the political institutions of mankind, gives men the power to rise above their immediate self-interest, to work for the interests of their community, of their nation, or of peoples dedicated to a common ideal.

China's recent economic struggle, I believe, has been almost as heroic as her military struggle. If we Americans were blasted from our seacoasts by a hostile force we could retire into our great interior and find there the machines and the skilled labor to fight on. But in the vast interior of China there were no such facilities. The Chinese had to carry their factories inland with them; not on freight cars, not on trucks, not even in carts, but on human backs, piece by heavy piece. They carried them up the great river valleys and across the mountain ranges. And they set them down and put them together in the remote highlands, where the whirr of machinery had never been heard. From the relatively few factories that could thus be transported there have now blossomed more than a thousand industrial establishments—small for the most part and limited in the scope of their manufactures, but each contributing its undying bit to the foundation of the New China.

Surely we Americans can read the handwriting on the wall. The opening up of New China compares only, in modern history, with the opening up of our own West. We know the struggle of those people. We know the hope. And in some significant measure we know what the fulfillment can be. The economic aim of the leaders of modern China is to develop their country much as we developed ours. They want to create an industrial foundation from which to raise the standard of living of their people. Many experts believe that the industrialization of China, once started, would proceed even faster than ours did. The New China would start with advanced technologies. Where we had to await the slow development of the locomotive they would begin with the 300-mile-an-hour airplane.

Freedom Must Be Shared

In addition to the political and economic factors that I have sought to describe, there are intangible factors that bind us to China. The leader of the Chinese people, Chiang Kai-shek, is one of the great men of history. His wife and his sister-in-law were educated in this country. It is estimated that nearly two-thirds of the leaders of the New China are graduates of American schools and colleges. This university of yours has graduated many distinguished Chinese, among them C. P. Ling of the class of 1918, who has been prominent in promoting Sino-American trade through modern methods, and F. I. Li, of the class of 1910, professor of history at Tang Shan University in China.

These personal ties between our people and the leadership of China assure us of Chinese sympathy and understanding. We know that if we win this war, and if we approach the peace in the spirit of free men who want a free world, China will work with us and will help us in world reconstruction.

It will be a new idea to many Americans that the United States may in the future need help from other nations. But we do need help if our ideas of personal liberty, of justice, of equality, of hope and growth and expansion, are to survive. We can keep America to ourselves, though I doubt if the America we keep to ourselves would be free. But we cannot keep freedom to ourselves. If we are to have freedom we must share freedom.

Already we owe much to other peoples who are fighting for freedom. After Dunkerque the British stopped the German tide while we were slowly rousing ourselves from the delusions of peace. In the last few months we have had an opportunity to get our industries on a war footing; we owe this opportunity to the brave Russian people, who have been rolling back the German war machine. And as I have sought to show, we owe China the five long years of fighting by which she checked the Japanese.

Day of Equality at Hand

It has often been said that the world needs the United States—and that is the truth. But equally the United States, if it is to preserve freedom, needs the world.

Recently, on the Peninsula of Bataan, the people of the United States suffered the worst technical defeat, numerically speaking, that they have ever suffered at the hands of a foreign power. We cannot now repay the men who gave their lives in that great action. Yet to those who survive them it is surely a deep consolation to reflect that out of that defeat a new hope was born.

On Bataan the Filipinos and Americans, fighting side by side, learned the real meaning of equality. We know now, in a way that we could never have known before, the real equality between races. We know, too, that in that idea of equality lies the hope, and the only sure hope, of the future. The day is gone when men and women, of whatever color or creed, can consider themselves the superiors of other creeds or colors. The day of vast empire is past. The day of equal peoples is at hand.

Let us keep that aim shining before us like a light—a light for the people of Europe, for the people of Africa, for the people of Asia, for the people of South America and for the people of our own beloved land.