American War Aims


By CARLTON J. H. HAYES, Ambassador of the United States of America to Spain

Delivered before the Chiefs of Allied and friendly Missions and officials of the Spanish Government, at the Casa Americana, Madrid, January 15, 1943

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. IX, pp. 339-342.


IT is a curious fact that just as the United States began its national history as a federation of thirteen colonies, so now thirteen sovereign states of the American Continents are leagued together in a world-war of colossal magnitude. These thirteen comprise one English-speaking country—the United States of America; one half-English and half-French—the Dominion of Canada; one great Portuguese-speaking country—Brazil; one French-speaking country—Haiti; and nine Spanish-speaking countries—Mexico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Costa Rico, and Panama. All thirteen American nations are leagued together, moreover, in support of common objectives, and with these objectives certainly sympathize practically all the governments and peoples of the New World.

Why, then, to be specific, is the United States at war? Why are North American soldiers and sailors and airmen fighting alongside other Americans and also alongside British and Australians and French and Dutch and Belgians and Norwegians and Greeks and Poles and Czechoslovaks and Yugoslavs and Chinese and Russians? Why is the United

States devoting all its man-power and material resources to the war and extending its battle fronts far away from America to North Africa, to New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, to Burma and China, to Iraq and Iran, to the coasts of France and the Low Countries, to the industrial nerve-centers of Germany and Italy? And why is the United States determined not to accept a negotiated peace of compromise but to fight this war through, no matter what sacrifices it may entail, to a complete and overwhelming victory? In a word, what are the American war-aims?

No nation is likely to plunge into a war of the extent and magnitude of the present global struggle without some powerful motivation. One does not risk everything for little stakes. Believe me, the Government and people of the United States are no exception to that rule.


Let me, at the outset, correct some misapprehensions which our enemies have sedulously propagated and let me state clearly what American war-aims are not. First, we do not aim at any extension of our national territory or seek any protectorate or other imperialistic sway over other peoples. Whatever imperialistic impulse certain segments of my people may have exhibited or yielded to in the nineteenth century has quite disappeared in the twentieth century. To this, not only our words but our deeds bear witness. In 1918 when we had ample opportunity and even invitation, we established no protectorate, assumed no mandate, appropriated not a square inch of land anywhere. Long before the present war began, we promised independence to the Filipinos, and by the time Japan attacked us the sovereign Commonwealth of the Philippines was well on the road to full realization. With all our sister republics of the American continents we have developed, and we practice, the policy of the "good neighbor," and this policy we seek to apply to the Old, as well as the New, World. We have solemnly and specifically engaged to respect the territorial integrity of this Iberian peninsula together with the overseas possessions of both Spain and Portugal. And we have likewise engaged not to tarry longer in French North Africa or elsewhere on alien soil than military exigencies absolutely require. Imperialism is most emphatically not an American war-aim. We fight not for conquest.

Second, we do not aim at imposing a particular form of government or a particular set of social institutions upon any other nation. As I said when I presented my credentials to His Excellency the Chief of the Spanish State last June, "we do not try to impose our system of government on any other people; equally, we are always quick to resist any attempt of another government to impose its system on us".

I know, alas, with what constancy and assiduity the factories of Axis propaganda manufacture stories to the contrary. I know, for example here in Spain, that they produce the most terrifying pictures of the consequences of Allied victory—intervention in behalf of some minority, resumption of civil war, reign of chaos and terrorism, triumph of Marxian Communism. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the main stock-in-trade of Dr. Goebbels and his associates, which should find market only among the timid and the gullible.

The United States is not Communist. Great Britain is not Communist. Brazil is not Communist. Among the great majority of the United Nations, the number of Communists and of sympathizers with Communism is very slight. Even the one country which is professedly Communist must be actuated in the magnificent and, I might add, successful defense it is now making less by Marxian doctrines than by the spirit of national freedom. What the United Nations will most want at the end of the present war is a continuity of traditional law and order, and any government which can maintain or establish such law and order will have the material as well as spiritual support of the United Nations. For in last analysis the best guarantee against Communism, for any nation which does not voluntarily choose it, is a government able to maintain order and to provide for the material needs of its people. Among the United Nations are the world's granaries and depots for supplying just those needs at the end of the present war.

The United States recognizes that no two nations have exactly the same historic traditions and that consequently no one form of government is equally suitable for all. Even the so-called democracies differ greatly in their democratic conceptions and usages. English democracy is different from American democracy, and both are different from Brazilian—or Polish—democracy. As the United States would not wish to impose its particular brand on Brazil, so much the more will it refrain from seeking to impose it upon an ancient country like Spain. If the political and social institutions of this country undergo change or modification in future years, it will be the work of Spaniards within Spain,not of the United States or of Spanish emigres. No, American war-aims are neither political nor socialistic.

Let me here refer, in passing, to yet another alleged war-aim which is not American. I have occasionally heard it said—doubtless an echo of Axis propaganda—that the present war is simply a trade-war, a capitalist war, a war for money-stakes, by means of which the United States is trying to get a stranglehold on the world's riches. This seems to be a patently silly allegation. It staggers my imagination to conceive how, if my nation is fighting this war for capitalistic stakes, it can be accused simultaneously of favoring Communism. But that merely staggers imagination. What puts it to utter rout is one's inability to perceive how any financial gains from the present war can be at all commensurate with the fantastic expenditure involved. Already the United States alone—exclusive of its allies—is spending 250 million dollars a day, or, at the legal rate of exchange, 2 billion, 737 million pesetas a day, which in a year's time amounts to 91 1/4 billion dollars or almost a thousand billion pesetas. These, ladies and gentlemen, are astronomical figures. They have no relationship to any possible money-return from an impoverished post-war world.

Actually in economics, as in politics, the United States is committed to the principle of asking nothing for itself which it is not willing to concede to others. It aims at no economic exclusiveness, at no monopolizing of natural resources or of the products of labor. It will undoubtedly be a creditor nation at the close of the war, but as such its own self-interest must dictate a policy of promoting the solvency and prosperity of the world at large. This can only be done, my Government has said, by freeing international trade to the greatest possible extent and by making raw materials available to all peoples on an equal basis.


I have dwelt too long, perhaps, on what American war-aims are not. To grasp what they really are, one must disabuse one's mind of the common but absurd fallacy that because my countrymen make a good deal of machinery—and pretty good machinery — they must be materialistic. Rather, one has to recognize the opposite truth that the people of the United States are intensely idealistic—incorrigibly idealistic. Americans have in them more of the Spanish than you might guess; they are, in their peculiar way, the Don Quixotes of the twentieth century.

For one thing, Americans love liberty—liberty for the individual, liberty for nations. This is not to say that they are necessarily sympathetic with everything which has gone by the name of liberalism, especially with that sectarian liberalism which in parts of Europe during the last century hardly disguised a selfish and pagan materialism. The liberty which Americans revere is the liberty of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, based on medieval Christian tradition and re-enforced by New World life and experience. It is the liberty of St. Thomas Aquinas, of Suarez and Locke, and also of Washington and Jefferson, of Bolivar and Lincoln.

Then, too, despite what would seem to be very fundamental differences among them, Americans have learned to live together in peace and security, without liberty degenerating into license, and with growing mutual respect. The United States has attained to it, quite literally in accordance with its Latin motto, "E pluribus unum". It is a unity in which share a Protestant majority, Catholics more numerous than those in Spain, Jews more numerous than in any other country. It is a unity of Yankee New England, of originally Dutch and now cosmopolitan New York, of French Louisiana, of Scandinavian Minnesota, of historically Spanish California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Florida, of peoples of the most diverse European extraction—Italian and German, Polish and Irish, English and Slav. The United States is a veritable association of nations, a very practical one; and Americans, recognizing that it has been achieved through cultivation of a good-neighbor policy at home, naturally glory in this policy and regard it as a proper article for export abroad.

Besides, Americans are peace-loving. They do not hanker after war and only grave and direct provocation will get them into war. They wanted very much to stay out of the present war, and they did stay out of it until they were treacherously attacked. They are, indeed, so used to adjusting differences among themselves by conference and debate and by a sporting rule of give-and-take that they have difficulty in understanding why the nations of the world should not settle their differences in like manner.

Yet once aroused, Americans can and will fight. And what most arouses them is resentment at being pushed around, or, almost equally, at seeing other people pushed around.


It is because the Axis Powers of Germany, Italy, and Japan have latterly been doing a good deal of pushing that the United States, in league with the other United Nations, is at war with the Axis. Our central war-aim is to put a stop to the pushing.

The spectacle which the Nazi regime presents inside Germany is sufficiently disgusting and revolting, with its maltreatment of Jews, its persecution of the Catholic Church, its utilization of violence and terror to establish what Pope Pius XI characterized as "the grossest paganism". Yet while we have regretted and reprobated what the Nazis have done within their own country, we have long been patient and have felt that the responsibility and the remedy alike lay, not with us or any foreigners, but with the German people. According to our principles, it was for Germans to decide what domestic regime they would live under, provided only that they respected the right of other peoples to a like freedom.

But this is precisely what Germany and the other Axis Powers have not respected. For several years now, as everybody knows, they have employed force and violence not only to enslave their own peoples but also to conquer and despoil other peoples, to deprive them of their freedom and to impose upon them alien rule and the worst forms of vassalage and slavery. Nazi Germany has definitely run amok in Czechoslovakia, Poland, the Baltic countries, and the Ukraine, in Norway, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, and France, and, with ghoulish seconding from Fascist Italy, in Greece and Yugoslavia. Japan has similarly brought havoc and death to China, to the Spanish-speaking Catholic Philippines, to the Dutch East Indies, to Siam and Burma. In vain Great Britain and other powers tried to be reasonable and conciliatory; they found to their grief, one after another, that the only recourse left them was to oppose force with force. In vain, the United States and the other American Republics protested their desire for peace; as they began preparations for defense, Japan descended with deadly bombs on Pearl Harbor, and Germany and Italy quickly joined in the attack on America.


Americans have long suspected—and now they know—that the so-called "New Order" which the Axis advertisesas its supreme war-aim is simply a gigantic pushing around and pushing down of practically all the peoples of the world in the selfish interest of a pair of swashbuckling and would-be "superior" Powers—Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. Even the original third partner is by now merely a silent partner, a kind of burned-out satellite helplessly held to its appointed course by solar Berlin.

The objectives of the German-Japanese "New Order" are clearly revealed in the war-aims which I have previously said were not American and which indeed are absolutely antithetical to those of the United Nations. It is Nazi Germany and Militaristic Japan which would blot out the independence of nations, annex territory far and wide, and establish imperialistic hegemonies, the one over Europe and Africa, the other over Asia and Oceania. It is the same Germany and Japan which would tear other peoples loose from their historic roots and compel them slavishly to imitate the political and social institutions and the de-Christianizing processes of the self-styled "Master" peoples. It is, likewise, the same Germany and Japan which would exploit the world's economy to their own exclusive advantage, thereby impoverishing less favored nations and in the long run preparing them for Communist or other desperate adventures.

Against the menace of this German-Japanese world order, Americans wish ardently to retain their freedom—their freedom to determine their own form of government, to live their own lives, to work and trade with some assurance of security and in an atmosphere of peace. In this sense American war-aims are strictly defensive; they signify defense of the American continents against an alien and aggressive world order. But in a broader sense American war-aims surely represent the aspirations and yearnings of all nations and peoples who want to be free and decent and self-respecting. They have been published to the world, let me remind you, that in that solemn joint declaration of the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Great Britain—the Atlantic Charter.

This Charter not only defines the war-aims of the countries named, but to all others it conveys assurances of a future peace of justice and right. "Their countries," affirm the signatories of the Charter, "seek no aggrandizement, territorial or other. They desire to see no territorial changes that do not accord with the freely expressed wishes of the peoples concerned. They respect the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live; and they wish to see sovereign rights and self-government restored to those who have been forcibly deprived of them. They will endeavor . . . to further enjoyment by all states, great or small, . . . of access, on equal terms, to the trade and to the raw materials of the world which are needed for their economic prosperity. They desire to bring about the fullest collaboration between all nations in the economic field, with the object of securing for all improved labor standards, economic advancement, and social security. After the final destruction of Nazi tyranny, they hope to see established a peace which will afford to all nations the means of dwelling in safety within their own boundaries, and which will afford assurance that all the men in all the lands may live out their lives in freedom from fear and want . . ."

These objectives accord perfectly with the best and highest traditions of Christian civilization as expressed so clearly and authoritatively in recent Christmas allocutions of the Sovereign Pontiff. They accord likewise with the natural rights of man and with the promptings of his conscience. Between these objectives and those of the Axis leaders, there can be no compromise.

There can be, then, no "negotiated" peace. The war must be fought to a finish, for it is a war between freedom and enslavement, between civilization and barbarism.

I said at the beginning that "no nation is likely to plunge into a war of the extent and magnitude of the present global struggle without some powerful motivation" and that "one does not risk everything for little stakes". I conclude by stressing the greatness of the stakes now involved and by pledging you that Americans are firmly and unitedly determined to do their part to win the war and to establish and maintain a just peace.