The Case for India

Jawaharlal Nehru sharing a joke with Mahatma Gandhi, during a meeting of the All India Congress, Mumbai, July 6, 1946.

THE Americans in their intercourse with strangers," says Tocqueville, "appear impatient of the smallest censure and insatiable of praise. The most slender eulogium is acceptable to them; the most exalted seldom contents them; they unceasingly harass you to extort praise, and if you resist their entreaties they fall to praising themselves. It would seem as if, doubting their own merit, they wished to have it constantly exhibited before their eyes." In this passage toward the end of his great work, and in others earlier, the astute but sententious Frenchman was perhaps yielding to an impulse of irritation aroused by chance encounters on river steamers or stage coaches or in taverns, where no doubt a good many of his comprehensive generalizations had their origin. The phenomenon to which he refers is recognizable just the same, a century later, as being characteristically, although not exclusively, American. Disagreement with American foreign policy, even when it comes from our oldest and best allies, is fiercely resented both in private and in public expressions. It sometimes seems that the right to free, honest difference of opinion, which was the principal basis of our Republic at its foundation, has come to be restricted more and more to our own citizens, and perhaps not even to all of them. A difference of opinion from abroad is repelled as if it were an attack.

This is a time of tension and strain, when feeling runs high and when, above all, tremendous efforts and sacrifices are being demanded of the American people. Most of the effort is asked on behalf of countries of the free world, by which is meant practically any country not harnessed to the Soviet machine. Criticism of American policy is taken particularly ill when it comes from the beneficiaries of the policy. That is, the criticism of our enemies may be disregarded, but that of our friends strikes home.

The government of the new Republic of India has criticized little, but that small censure has been

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