NATO’s Hard Road Ahead
The Greatest Threats to Alliance Unity Will Come After the Madrid Summit
WHAT is the war doing to Midwestern thinking about our country's rôle in world affairs? It would be a bold Midwesterner who, after reading the analyses written on the Eastern seaboard, persisted in considering the question still unanswered. From them he ought to know that "the people out there" are complacent. "They really don't know that we are at war," he will have heard over and over again; "it's true they are fighting well, but only for the inalienable right of the United States to be isolated." This attitude persists in the East despite proof provided by public opinion polls of the past several years that the Middle West is no more isolationist than the nation as a whole.[i]
A Middle Westerner who demurred at the East's interpretation would be even bolder to try to answer it on the basis of his own personal acquaintanceship. The Midwest can be defined broadly as stretching from Western Pennsylvania to Colorado and from mid-Missouri to Canada. What kind of personal acquaintanceship can one have with a population nearly as large as that of Italy, in an area four times that of Weimar Germany, and possessing the most variously developed of all our regional economies? Moreover, the war is still in an early stage for the United States, and opinions are still in process of formation. And finally if one has lived in the Midwest steadily enough since December 7 to have gotten the "feel" of it, he probably has lived there too long to possess any real basis for offering judgments of it in comparison with adventures in opinion in other parts of the country. The fact remains that the Midwest, for all its motley population, probably has a more nearly uniform Volksgeist than Hitler's blue-eyed Germany. A Midwesterner who has shared the war experience with many persons in many groups and different strata can at least make an attempt at sensing what people throughout the region are thinking.
The most apparent thing is that they are thinking. Every kind of occasion is used for serious discussions -- the meeting of a farm loan association, for example, or a district Rotary convention, or a reunion of the alumni of a small high school. If time and again the discussion leaps to the postwar problems, this is not because the participants do not realize the necessity and difficulty of winning the war; rather, it is because of their realization that one of the things for which we are fighting is the privilege of helping to build the postwar world, and because they are determined that we shall give our ordeal and our victory some meaning. This thinking is not haphazard. It is based on conclusions beaten out during the long debate on foreign policy which ended December 7, 1941. One is weary but grateful as he reviews the amount of talking done in the Midwest since the conference at Munich. The rough logic of the argument can be traced, and there may be profit in doing so briefly.
The nub of the story is in the growth of the conviction that the two things which the people of the Midwest had long regarded as vital interests -- peace and the security of American institutions -- were contradictory. Before September 1939 these interests seemed reconcilable. We regarded the war in Asia as remote and we did not feel that war was imminent in Europe. From the beginning of the war in Europe until the fall of France they seemed reconcilable because we saw little relation between the two wars and expected Britain and France to win in Europe.
Then we had to find out why we did not want a Nazi victory. Was it merely out of morality and sentiment? If so, we would have permitted a Nazi victory. But we decided the war was for more than that. From a conviction that the aggressor states threatened our peace but not our security, we graduated to a conviction that the Nazi system threatened the existence of our system. The steps in this intellectual progression followed but did not anticipate events. The argument was really over whether the United States had any choice. If its existence was at stake, of course everybody would fight -- but was it? At each particular point the people of the Midwest were sufficiently fearful lest it might indeed be at stake for them to be willing to take risks. As a result, there, as in the nation as a whole, about 50 percent approved of each of the President's successive moves to aid the opponents of aggression and about 20 percent more urged even stronger action.
But it was when we turned our eyes southward and westward beyond our own frontiers that we made real progress in defining America's vital interests. Several years ago, when Midwesterners saw no threat to those interests, they used to say that Latin America and Canada were the only territories (other than our own) which they would fight to defend. By the time the lendlease bill was passed we saw that a threat did exist; and we realized that we could ward it off in Asia and Europe more easily than in Latin America because in Asia and Europe we would not have to fight alone. We had learned quite a lot about Latin America. We had gotten a vague idea of cultural and political differences and a clear idea of economic similarities. Much would have to be done, we perceived, before Pan-Americanism would offer us a haven in a storm. We were willing to try to put the ideals of Pan-Americanism into practice (with varying degrees of opposition to specific measures from specific groups). But meantime the storm was upon us. We began to think of our Good Neighbor policy as a part of instead of as a substitute for a consistent world policy.
Midwesterners also came to perceive the need for a world policy by looking at Asia. Several years ago (to put it charitably) we knew even less about Asia than about Latin America. The situation in Asia was complicated. We did not seem to have vital interests there.[ii] We were bolder there than in Europe -- perhaps because of our racial snobbery and the fact that our expansion had always been westward. Of course, we chose our hero and our villain. But though we enjoyed cheering one and hissing the other, we Midwesterners were for quitting the Asiatic theater. Meantime, however, we did not see the contradiction between our mild intervention there and our doctrinaire isolation from Europe.
Until the fall of France the only change which occurred in our thinking with regard to Asia was an increase in our dislike of the Japanese. This expressed itself in approval of anti-Japanese economic measures but not in any pronounced increase in pro-Chinese feeling. Our attitude was negative. The fall of France, the Japanese advance into Indo-China, and the German menace to Britain revealed to the Middle West the spherical nature of the world. At first, however, we did not take events personally. The German-Japanese pact against us in 1940 excited us neither to fear nor to anger. By the time of the Nazi attack on Russia we knew that we were committed to a Nazi defeat, that the Japanese were committed to a Nazi victory, and that unless we checked Japan the Nazis would win. So we favored checking Japan; but we wished to do it by threat and bluff rather than by aid to the Chinese. Emotionally we still did not expect to have to go to war.
Between 20 and 25 percent of the people of the Midwest opposed the President's foreign policy. The citizens in this minority fought each new step in advance; but (unlike most of their political leaders) they accepted the one just made. It was not that they did not want to stop Nazism. They merely thought war was unnecessary and wanted to avoid it.
To this opposition four Midwestern characteristics contributed, as follows:
Pacifism. The influence of the "Bible Belt's" traditional condemnation of war on moral and religious grounds must not be underrated. Moreover, the "munition-makers" theory of the origins of war had a strong appeal, particularly in Nye's North Dakota, where of all regions in the Midwest the people were, and probably still are, the most confused. It was not lessened by a strong anti-capitalistic vein of thought remaining from the radical revolts of the Midwest against the industrial East.
Politics. The Midwestern members of the lower house in Congress are Republican. Of the 84 Republican Representatives from the area only Cunningham of Iowa has not been consistently isolationist. When the editors of the New Republic recently picked 23 "obstructionist" Representatives in Congress they chose 14 from the Midwest, 12 of them Republicans. These men, whose organ is the Chicago Tribune, reflect, though they exaggerate, a regional condition in their party which has been tolerated or encouraged by political traditions dating back to the Civil War, the development of railroads and the opening of homesteads, and by social conservatism, the stronghold of which is the numerous small towns and cities of the Midwest. Of 49 Democratic Representatives in the House from the Midwest only 10 have voted consistently isolationist.
Isolation. To farmers in beet sugar, cattle, wheat and other one-commodity branches of Midwestern agriculture, world trade means less than it does to farmers producing several commodities. In the eyes of most of them it plays the rôle of the villain -- "cheap foreign competition." The structure and nature of labor unions differ widely throughout the region, of course; but, in general, labor has still to win its battle for the recognition of twentieth century standards. Labor leaders therefore are more preoccupied with the inter-group struggle and less interested in world affairs than elsewhere. It was not an accident that the Midwest produced John L. Lewis, prototype of the warrior as opposed to the statesman.
Anti-British feeling and anti-imperialism. The factors here are the Irish and German groups, and also one aspect of the anticapitalism of Midwest radical thought.
The approach and technique of the minority which fought President Roosevelt's foreign policy were negative. They harped on the horrors of war, the alleged shortcomings of Britain and Russia, or worse, and the hopelessness of victory. They did not endeavor to show how the United States could coöperate with victorious Fascism or live securely and prosperously within a moated hemisphere. This negativism was in part due to their mottled make-up (Robert Hutchins and Charles Coughlin; Philip LaFollette and Clare Hoffman). Toward the end of the debate the isolationist leaders tended to break into two factions, one desperate, the other despairing. Lindbergh heaved his anti-Semitic boomerang in Des Moines; the Chicago Tribune printed secret war plans. Some other isolationists, regarding war as inevitable, subsided. An honorable few -- too few -- repudiated the Fascist outbreaks of their desperate colleagues.
By the fall of 1941 the Midwest was intellectually prepared to wage war in Europe and Asia. We had decided that we must fight there soon with allies or later at home alone. But our soul was still troubled by our hatred for war and by the divisions within our national counsels. And essentially we must have doubted the conclusions we had reached by intellectual processes, for we were completely unready for the attack on us at Pearl Harbor.
That we were attacked from two directions may be one of the most influential facts in American history. The immediate effect was galvanic. The great majority of Midwesterners concluded that if President Roosevelt had erred it was in having been too moderate. Of course, a persistent group of haters -- haters of Roosevelt, haters of war, haters of the British, haters of the Russians -- was driven underground, there to bide their time. Their strength cannot yet be measured. But fundamentally the Midwest was unified as it never had been before, and with the rest of the nation it exulted in the new national unity. As the weeks go by we see more and more clearly the full extent of the havoc done by the Japanese attack to the Midwest's old sense of American impregnability.
The remaining question is: "Now that we have received concrete proof of the correctness of our intellectual persuasion that the existence of the United States is at stake, will we progress to the conclusion that, since we must fight and win wars abroad, our policy must be to prevent wars abroad?" If I cannot confidently answer "Yes," it is out of respect for the complexity of the steps that will be required to prevent foreign wars and not because of any doubt about the permanence of the Midwest's conversion. We have moved farther than is recognized elsewhere. My hope is that the nation as a whole has moved as far.
Now that we are in the war the Midwest wants to carry it to the enemy. This is only distantly connected with an awareness of the power position of the United States. It merely expresses our basic will to win. There is little fanfare about it. Deep as is the Midwest's conviction that we must win this war, war itself is not being glorified. Indeed, the hatred of war, pacifism thwarted and isolation denied, may turn out to be the main supports of a drive for an orderly solution of the world's greatest problem.
The arguments for waging only a defensive war still persist, slyly, subtly, often masquerading as merely hatred of the necessity of war and as criticism of our war effort. These arguments may find expression merely in the emphasis of a headline. But they are there, getting no converts, just waiting. . . .
So far, Midwesterners identify the enemy chiefly as the Japanese. We are aware of the many-fronted and global nature of the war. Indeed, most of us probably have the conviction that Nazi Germany is the real culprit. But our attention is focussed on the theater where we are doing the most dramatic fighting.
We expect a long, hard struggle. At first our anger and our native cockiness colored our judgment. But reverses brought sobriety. According to the survey made by the National Opinion Research Center at Denver, 50 percent of the Midwest now expects a war lasting two years or more (probably a slightly higher percentage than in the nation as a whole) and only 8 percent expects a war of less than a year. But our support of the war does not rest on any estimate as to its probable length. We'll adjust our sights but not our determination.
It is thrilling to observe the Midwest's sublime inability to conceive defeat for the United States. We have full confidence, despite battles lost, in our armed forces. This is particularly true of the Navy, in which the Middle West has a peculiar sense of participation because of the disproportionately large enlistment of our Midwestern boys. Similarly, despite our defeats, the popularity of President Roosevelt and the general confidence of the region in him mount. Personal impressions check with what the Gallup polls show: neither "honest and loyal criticism" nor nasty sniping seems to have made much difference.
The fact is that we seem to be healthy-minded today -- that is, compared to our prewar selves. Immoderate impulses are being held in check. For example, we are wary, in the main, of the spy and witch hunt. Civil liberties seem to be more secure than they were during the depression. In fact, when we discuss how to win the war we are able to submit to analysis the milk of sacred cows hitherto regarded, though unpasteurized, as pure. When now and then a pro-Nazi rears his head people of course get excited; but there does not seem any tendency for them to usurp the law in trying to inflict punishment.
Thus we have been treating our Italian and German minorities in the Midwest decently. This is due partly to the fact that they are better assimilated, by one generation, than were the Germans in 1917, but partly to experience and education. We remember previous excesses with shame. The lesson apparently will have to be learned anew with the Japanese. We are hostile towards the few that are in the Midwest and are set against getting any more of them. Blood patriots were going to deny Iowa the services of some irreplaceable Japanese chicken-sexers (including several who were American soldiers on leave), but justice and common sense spoke and in the end were heeded. In the spring of 1942, Nebraska badly needed workers in the sugar beet fields. The importation of Japanese laborers from other parts of the country was considered. Governor Griswold warned: "I do not feel that I can guarantee order will be maintained." If the Governor had wanted to come out for reason and beet sugar he probably would have found enough Nebraskans to maintain order.
If we Midwesterners were to take the law into our hands it would likely be against the East for calling us complacent. We don't think we are. We don't feel that we are doing everything we should, but we don't know what else to do. The truth probably is that we are ignorant of the civilian's rôle in total war. No Midwestern state, probably no community, has a program of civil mobilization appropriate to the size of the problem. Valuable analyses by social scientists are ignored by Midwestern governors, some of whom are preoccupied trying to enlist in the Senate of the United States. What is and is not being done in the meantime can be illustrated by two examples. In one country school eight miles from a town of 250 population, 15 miles from a town of 2,500, and 50 miles from a city of 80,000, the eight primary pupils solemnly practise crawling under tables to escape flying fragments of bombs. Yet labor grows scarce in cities and on farms, with no mobilization of women, children and whitecollar workers under way. And scrap iron rusts on nearly every farm. As the need for a scientific civilian program of war work burns deeper into the popular consciousness, the Midwest will go to school for total war. Let us hope it will not go alone.
Another inadequacy is our indifference to the "spiritual offensive." Few pause to think how much other peoples are interested in our war aims. We abound in good will, but we seem to take it for granted that our benevolence is as apparent to the Chinese, the Indian, the European in conquered and occupied countries, and even to our enemies, as it is to ourselves. In the Midwest there is slight pressure, so far, for a dynamic statement of American war purposes. But there would be considerable response to one.
Midwesterners have no real sense of the vitality of the "United Nations." We look at our allies separately, and feel that the common ground uniting us is more negative than affirmative.
Towards the British most of us feel admiration and affection -- perhaps more so towards our neighbors the Canadians and towards the Australians than towards the English. When the British botch a job their good friends feel competent to speak plainly. The same friends haven't yet heard about jobs the British doubtless know we have botched. Less discriminating and perhaps less well-intentioned criticism is heard in the Midwest from obstructionists who continue their prewar line of thought and talk; but it also comes from some ardent supporters of the war. The fact that these latter feel as they do even under the emergency conditions which now prevail indicates a weakness in Anglo-American relations which may later on prove even more serious.
Our admiration of the Russians is a more complex affair. Being good Americans, Midwesterners worship success. Some, taking up at this point, argue that we shall have to fight Russia later on. This fear, like the suspicion felt towards the British, is played upon by those who deliberately oppose the war as well as by some others who support the war. Among the latter are found some openly if innocently cynical sponsors of Russian war relief. But there also is another factor in the situation -- a revaluation of the Soviet experiment is being made by thoughtful persons in all groups and strata. Here it is not the military consideration which counts but the spirit of the Russian people. "They've got something they want to hold on to." Increasing numbers of Midwesterners are interested in understanding the Soviet Union and in reviewing past American-Russian relations.
Our reactions to the Chinese are simply stated: remote and enormous admiration (particularly since the Japanese began kicking us around), but little sense of comradeship and even less understanding of or enthusiasm for the Chinese revolution. Interest and understanding are growing, however, promoted by a group which calls for reform of the old imperialist methods, for the declaration and practice of racial equality (at home, we hope, as well as internationally) and help for China in building herself into a cornerstone of a stable Asia.
Our thoughts on the Latin Americas are the most easily described -- satisfaction and indifference.
Midwesterners have little patience with the "have and havenot" theory of the origins of this war. When we consider how vicious and powerful the Axis nations are we conclude that it is a good thing they had no more than they did have. So far we have not worked up much direct hatred for them, however, and what we do feel is mostly directed towards the Japanese (this may, of course, change as our American troops come to grips with the Nazis in Europe). Increasingly one hears the behavior of the Japanese and Germans explained in terms of race and culture; but a formidable and articulate group opposes this line of argument.
People of the Midwest listen readily to objective explanations of the problems of the German, Italian and Japanese peoples and the factors, including American bungling, which led to Fascism and war. Perhaps half of us agree that the United States must help these peoples contrive sane solutions to their problems. We are truly perplexed, however, as to what to do with the indoctrinated generations; and this perplexity is being exploited by that minority, which includes some leading isolationists, which calls for a "just peace and plenty of it!" We make more of a distinction between governments and peoples in the case of the Germans and Italians than the Japanese. This too may change. But the National Opinion Research Center reveals that a substantially smaller percentage of the Midwest than of the nation as a whole believes that the enemy peoples will always want to go to war, and substantially more believe that eventually they could become good citizens of the world.
The Midwest's strongest conviction concerning the future is that "the attack upon our territory and institutions must never be permitted again." This may prove the foundation upon which support for America's participation in world affairs can be built. Speculation on specific problems raised by the nature of the task is just beginning. The argument is being developed that the United States will be the only great source of supply in a world of want, that Britain will have been weakened and that our other allies and the enemy peoples will be badly in need of reconstruction. According to the polls, 87 percent of the Midwest (compared to 85 percent of the nation) believe that the United States should take part in a world organization to help keep peace and order. Of this 87 percent, 86 percent would have such an organization include all the United Nations; 58 percent (7 percent more than in the nation) would include the enemy peoples.
Most of the thought we are giving to problems of world order is general and finds expression in terms of a "stronger League." Clarence Streit's program of federalism is attractive to many; but the suggestion of anything that seems like an exclusive Anglo-American or democratic union excites fears that counterblocs would be constructed. Fortune's proposal of an Anglo-American economic union is too new and perhaps too complicated to have attracted either widespread criticism or approval as yet.
The reactions of two elements within the ranks of former opponents of war are significant. Pacifists in considerable numbers are swinging (some of them back) to support collective security. So are some isolationists. One Iowa editor with a long history of opposition to world coöperation wrote after Pearl Harbor: "Here's one who has had his fill of isolationism and self-sufficiency for America." Some other isolationists -- the number of them cannot be measured yet -- seem to be turning their thoughts in the direction of a balance-of-power policy toward Europe and Asia.
Midwesterners seem to be more hard-boiled than the run of Americans generally toward the "repayment" of lend-lease. We incline to be a bit more lenient toward China than toward Russia and Britain. But during the past 20 years we have done a lot of thinking about the nature of repayment. We joke about the uselessness of our gold in the Kentucky hills. We are impressed with the fact that most of the old war debts were repudiated, and with the thought that if they had been paid in gold we would have had to bury more gold still. Many and powerful makers of opinion, including leaders in farm and business organizations, develop this point.
Concerning the possibility of the payment of reparations, the people of the Midwest are a bit more skeptical but no more wise than Americans generally. Fewer think the United Nations should make the enemy peoples pay all the cost of the war (35 percent in the nation, 27 percent in the Midwest, according to the National Opinion Research Center); but more think they should pay all they can over a period set by the victors (49 percent in the nation, 57 percent in the Midwest).
Behind these thoughts on specific problems is the conviction, held however dimly by a majority of Midwesterners, that any system of world order must have economic substance. This undoubtedly will be the crux of the argument over American participation in such a system. Already the lines are being drawn. "After the war, what?" -- wrote George Peak recently to Illinois Republicans. There are two possibilities, he answered: Internationalism, as outlined in the point of the Atlantic Charter promising equal access to markets and raw materials, which (he said) would mean a lower standard of living and a foreign type of government for Americans; or Nationalism, which (he said) would mean the protection of our higher standards and the working out of our life in our own way.
The Republican Party will continue to be the army of isolationism unless it is hopelessly crushed (which is improbable in the Midwest, although the indications now are that the Democrats will gain next fall) or reformed according to the philosophy of Willkie and Stassen. So far the Grand Old Party has sat on the fence. The resolution passed by the national committeemen in Chicago during April, besides being merely a resolution, is pretty meaningless. It has been interpreted in their own sense by both isolationists and participationists. On the more important point of whether isolationist incumbents are to be "purged" the Party balks. "This war is more important than any question of isolation versus intervention," said an Iowa committeeman.
The thought Midwesterners are giving to the postwar world is deepened by their reflections on the changes in the American economy which are being forced by the war effort.
The expansion of our agriculture is being set by the needs of our armies and of our allies abroad and of a war economy at home. Corn and hogs, flax and soybeans, furnish examples. "Inefficient" branches of our agriculture are being fostered and will become entrenched. The production of cattle and sugar is being pushed, and spokesmen for those interests are not neglecting to argue their case for the future. A revolution in the mechanization of agriculture has long been under way. Now, stimulated by the need for greater output with less manpower, this is going ahead despite the increasing difficulty of getting machinery. After the war, the "economic unit" in some areas and in some segments of agriculture is likely to be larger and the number of persons and families productively engaged in agriculture therefore smaller.
The labor supply is being expanded in the Midwest as elsewhere. The training and retraining of machinists is a particularly big job in this area on account of the number of its automobile, airplane and farm implement industries. What is being done to the chief industries of the region, like mining, meat-packing and machine-making, is widely known. "Small business" in many fields is depressed, in others it is distorted, thanks to the chaos of subcontracting. A few "inefficient" industries are being developed -- for example, corn alcohol. Undoubtedly, too, the war is intensifying the concentration of population, bleeding the small towns and rural areas and congesting cities large and small.
The importance of these developments in their effect on our Midwestern thinking about foreign affairs cannot be overestimated. We fear the shock of readjustment. The memory of the past is with us like a pain. We worry about national debt and taxes, about how we are to reabsorb returning warriors and workers, about the fact that the farmer entered this war still battered from the last and with twice the mortgaged indebtedness he had in 1917. To some of us the logic seems clear. Agriculture and industry can maintain productivity and employment only if both are healthy throughout the nation, and the nation can be well only in a rationally planned world. The "efficient" farmer and industrialist need a planetary market for which to produce. (At least one major automobile company is reported to be preparing to stay in the airplane business.) The "inefficient" farmer and industrialist need a world of rising purchasing power and economic opportunity in order to cushion the conflict with their more efficient competitors and to permit their gradual absorption into other fields.
The Midwest has spokesmen able to develop this logical argument. Many leaders in many groups are coming to realize the necessity of a world approach. Millions more are as yet merely shaken in their blind hope in a narrow solution. But the drive away from a crabbed conception of the true basis of national welfare seems inexorable. Before the drive can be intelligently directed, however, much elementary education must be done (particularly in the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas and westward, and in Chicago), and specific proposals to aid in solving specific problems of adjustment must be made. The important debate of the future probably will be over, not the general question of participation in world affairs, but concrete measures involved in that participation. For example, over 80 percent of the people in the Rocky Mountain states oppose the free importation of foreign beef, sugar and wool. The people of the Dakotas, Nebraska and Kansas probably feel much the same.
If in the past the two chief factors working toward world-mindedness in the Midwest have been the revolt of agriculture against protectionism and the development of efficient industries, then it seems likely that the current of our thoughts will continue to flow in the same direction, swollen by our experiences in this war. Our agriculture is more than ever diverted towards producing for a world market; with the rest of the world destitute, we plainly cannot sell and refuse to buy. Our automobile industry has now become in part an airplane industry, conforming to the fact that the human race is on the threshold of the Air Age.
This movement may be obstructed by one development and aided by a second. In the boiling up of war activity, social pressures are mounting. As women, Negroes and low-income groups gain in responsibility and economic power, reactions are provoked which may impede a coördinated national and world program. Two alliances seem to be in the making, running horizontally across our Midwestern economy: one between the low-income farmers and laborers; the other between upper-income farmers, employers and the more venerable labor organizations. The alliance in the upper stratum, being older, has gone farther; the alliance in the lower, long an unrealized hope of Midwestern reformers, is being promoted by the Farmers' Union.
The second development, incipient as yet but intense and aggressive and growing, is part of the search for the meaning of the war. Fascist aggression is being seen as a total counter-revolution made possible because the liberal revolution of modern times was not extended to colonial peoples in non-occidental societies or to the masses within occidental society. What is required, it is being argued, is a resumed total offensive by the forces of the liberal revolution, to end racial and economic exploitation abroad and at home. An increasing number of Midwesterners proclaim this, and are receiving a quickening response. To the credit of the vitality of Midwestern democracy, this is no "class line." The interpretation is spreading among members of all groups and classes. As the submerged portion of humanity becomes the foundation of victory, and as we all become enrolled in the classless fellowship of sorrow, the Midwest will search deeply into what President Roosevelt has inappropriately called "the war for survival."
What is the kind of world which the Midwest hopes will survive the fighting and evolve in the peace? So far I have spoken mainly about the kind of world which we do not want. We don't want Hitlerism. Neither do we want the American world of the past generation. Our desires, in so far as we have given them voice, are expressed well in our own Henry Wallace's analysis of the world revolution against fear and want. His statement can be said to be negative in comparison with Jefferson's "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." You cannot free man from fear and want; you can only free him to pursue happiness; and the pursuit, not the happiness, is the glory of life. True. But, since Jefferson's affirmative language has so often been used in recent decades to justify denying man, particularly the farmer, both the pursuit and the happiness, we must not misread the apparent negativism of Henry Wallace and his Midwestern followers.
Actually, it is a highly affirmative philosophy mirrored backward in the misery of our time. The Midwest has taken the conditions of the pursuit of happiness for granted, and emphasized the job of removing the obstacles. Having been a territory, we accepted our political union as granted; we did not have to fight to form it, only to prevent its destruction. We took vast productivity as the natural order; when our system broke down we saw, side by side, food spoiling and people starving. While waiting for a basic correction of the maladjustment, our liberals thought in terms of relieving want by distributing plenty and not immediately in terms of producing more. The conservative Midwest was inclined to oppose fundamental alterations in the distributive system out of respect for a productive system which had worked so well for so many for so long.
But, liberal or conservative, we want freedom, peace and productivity. (No one who knows the thought of Henry Wallace or the Midwestern farmer can suspect that they enjoyed trying to restrict agricultural production. Programs for conserving soil and developing hybrid corn were much more to their liking.) Now that the foundation of the nation's peace has been shattered, now that the nation and particularly the Midwest are producing for the world so enormously that the very volume threatens to choke and starve us if we try to retreat back into ourselves -- now what?
Several years ago the editors of Fortune wrote that nothing has ever been good enough for the American, and that when he accepts the world as his concern, it won't be good enough either. The observation applies particularly to that "most American" region, the Midwest. Given luck and leadership, it will coöperate in securing humanity's right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The beginning of wisdom in leadership is the knowledge that the people of the Midwest are likely to give what is asked of them.
[i] One reason for the Eastern belief, of course, is the record of the Republican Representatives from the Middle West. On the nine major bills concerning foreign policy and preparation for war considered in Congress between February 2, 1939, and November 13, 1941, the 84 Representatives from that region cast 633 out of 650 votes, or 97 percent, against the Administration's policies.
[ii] The magnanimous grant of independence to the Filipinos was motivated at least in part by a sublimation of the desire of sugar beet and animal fat farmers to be rid of competitors.