THE Panay incident is closed. The Secretary of State accepted from Japan an apology, somewhat evasive but less so than any ever before offered by that country to a foreign Power. The apology was coupled with some face-saving falsehoods which every one recognized as such and which were not allowed to pass unchallenged. But the incident is closed and with it another chapter of our Far Eastern policy. With far less provocation, the United States has in other days resorted to hostilities in a dozen places in the Caribbean area and in the Far East. But at this moment the American people were pacifist by a large majority. There can be no doubt that the handling of the Panay affair won for the President and the Secretary of State very nearly unanimous approval. However, the United States still has economic and political relations with the Far East. The Sino-Japanese war still continues. And other incidents are certainly possible; some think them probable.
Many people both here and abroad have been wondering for twenty years whether a war between Japan and the United States can, in fact, eventually be escaped. The Panay incident, even though closed like the sinking of the Lusitania, makes the idea of such a war almost plausible. No Japanese statesman, civilian or military, should be deceived by the pacifistic tone of American sentiment in the closing months of 1937. Public opinion in a democracy is liable to a flip-flop overnight. Japan is nearer to war with the United States than she ever was before. To start it, only one or two new Panay affairs would be necessary, or perhaps an attack similar to that visited upon the British Ambassador to China last summer. Anyone who lived through, or has studied carefully, the period from the invasion of Belgium in August 1914 to Germany's resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare in January 1917 knows the wide swings of which American public opinion is capable.
A new chapter is opening in Japanese-American relations. There
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