THE passage of the Neutrality Act in 1936 and the strong support recently given in Congress to the Ludlow Resolution (providing that war can be declared only if approved by a national referendum) are merely two manifestations of the great strength not only of American isolationists but of that considerable body of public opinion which is determined to have peace at almost any price.
But as the United States has sought to withdraw more and more into its shell it has felt the urge to make that shell strong. The pending Army and Navy annual supply bills tentatively call for the expenditure in 1939 of about $980,326,812, an increase of more than $50,000,000 over the national defense budget for 1938. That already constitutes one of the greatest peacetime armaments budgets in American history. On top of this, on January 28 the President urged Congress to authorize a largescale, long-range expansion of the Navy and a further modernization of the Army at a total estimated cost of $1,300,000,000 over and above the regular annual defense budget.
These apparently contradictory trends -- the one pacifist and the other militarist -- are not so incongruous as they might appear on the surface; they represent in fact a reversion to that old policy enunciated earlier in the century by another Roosevelt -- "speak softly and carry a big stick." In the first postwar decade when the nations were toying with disarmament the big stick was whittled down considerably. Our national defense policy followed the familiar pattern of our history, except that in addition to the usual disarmament "by neglect" we were practising disarmament by precept and by treaty.
But those days are done and the time for a really big stick has come again. Ever since President Roosevelt took office in 1933, the Army, the Navy and their air forces have been steadily increasing in size and power. Today, under the impetus of the world armament race, the process is being accelerated at an even faster tempo.
The Navy, our first line of
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