The British faced the peril of 1940 as they faced the peril of 1916, by maneuvering Americans into bailing them out of wars that should have been avoided, or settled with diplomacy and an armistice. Roosevelt critic Burton K. Wheeler knew well that providing loans, equipment and munitions to one belligerent in a conflict makes the United States a target and American financial interests would always seek political assurances that their investments are amply protected. Few American leaders seemed to learn the stern lessons of the Great War.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com
American Boys Dying in European Wars
“I have said this before, but I shall say it again and again: Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars . . . The purpose of our defense is defense.”
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had said it during his campaign for re-election in 1940. Wendell Wilkie, the Republican, had made approximately the same pledge that fall. They had made their peace and neutrality covenants with the people that autumn, but now it was January, 1941 – an ominous time . . .
The wind ruffled the bunting on the stand where President Roosevelt took his inaugural oath again. Four years earlier he stood in this same place and spoke of the crisis of the banks, poverty, unemployment, and other agonies of a nation in the spasms of the Depression. That pain was not fully gone and so he referred to it again: “The hopes of the republic cannot forever tolerate either undeserved poverty or self-serving wealth.”
The real peril, in a world threatened by aggressors, he said, is inaction. “We risk the peril of isolation,” he told the shivering crowd. Only a few days before, a great new issue had arisen to confront the Seventy-Seventh Congress: Lend-Lease, a program to sustain besieged Britain.
That Roosevelt proposal, Senator Burton K. Wheeler of Montana had said, means “war – open and complete warfare” which will “plow under every fourth American boy.” Roosevelt was infuriated.
Now Roosevelt’s words . . . told Americans: “In the face of great perils never before encountered, our strong purpose is to protect and perpetuate the integrity of democracy . . .”
[Congressman Henry M.] Jackson voted against the initial Lend-Lease proposal. He held out for a tightening of the original bill: It should have stronger restrictions, he said, to ensure against another national frustration like that which occurred from the unpaid war debts following World War I.”
(A Certain Democrat, Senator Henry M. Jackson, Prochnau and Larsen, Prentice-Hall, 1972, pp. 101-103)