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I •
Speech by
GENERAL ROBERT E. WOOD
Acting Chairman
America First Committee

°

"Our
Foreign
Policy'
delivered before the
Council on Foreign Relations
Friday, October 4, 1940
with an introduction by
MR. CLAY JUDSON
former President
of the Council on Foreign Relations

For the AMERICA FIRST COMMITTEE
National Headquarters
1806 Board of Trade Building
CHICAGO




The PRINCIPLES
of the
America First
Committee
1. The United States must build an impregnable defense for America.
2. No foreign power nor group of powers,
can successfully attack a PREPARED
America.
3. American democracy can be preserved
only by keeping out of the European
war.
4. "Aid short of war," beyond the limitations of cash and carry, weakens national defense at home and threatens to
involve America in war abroad.

Objectives—Non-Partisan
1. To bring together all Americans, regardless of possible differences on other
matters, who see eye-to-eye on these
principles. (This does not include
Fascists or Communists.)
2. To urge Americans to keep their heads
amid rising hysteria in times of crisis.
3. To provide sane national leadership for
the majority of the American people who
want to keep out of the European War.
4. To register this opinion with Congress.

AMERICA FIRST COMMITTEE
National Headquarters
1806 Board of Trade Building
CHICAGO
MAGILL-WEINSHEIMER C O . . CHICAGO, ILL.



Introduction of
GENERAL ROBERT E. WOOD
By Mr. Clay Judson, Former President
of the Council on Foreign Relations
We are at a crisis in our international relations.
On the decisions now made by the people of this
country and their leaders may depend our national
welfare for generations to come.
At earlier meetings you have had presented to
you dramatically, brilliantly, emotionally, the view
of those who believe that the ideal of American life
now demands a full participation in the war between
England and Germany, and a willingness to take all
the risks of war which that involves.
Now there is another view, equally patriotic,
equally above question from the standpoint of ideals
—but diametrically opposed in its spiritual and its
practical approach to the problem. This view sees
America's destiny as the preservation of peace for
^s 135,000,000 people; the abstention on any acunt, and no matter how emotional the appeal,
irom European and Asiatic wars; the maintenance
of the processes of democracy and of civilization.
Those who hold this view are certain that we
cannot enforce democracy on the rest of the world
by force and arms. They believe war will be ruinous
to everything we cherish most, and they believe we
can avoid war, and should make every effort to do so.
This is the view of the man who addresses you
today. He was born sixty-one years ago in the State
of Missouri. Forty years ago he graduated from the
United States Military Academy at West Point. His
first military service was in the Philippine insurrection. As Chief Quartermaster at Panama during the
days of the canal construction under General
Goethals, he was charged with the duty of acquiring
food, clothing, and supplies for the 40,000 employees and officials in the canal zone. During the
World War he had a major responsibility for supplying our entire military establishment. After the
war, in civil life, his marked ability gave him immediate recognition in the commercial world, where
he served for ten years as President of Sears, Roebuck & Company, and is now the Chairman of its
Board of Directors.
For his outstanding services during the World
War he was awarded the Distinguished Service
Medal. He is a Commander of the British Order of
St. Michael & St. George. He is a Knight of the
""-ench Legion of Honor. At present he is the Actg Chairman of the America First Committee.
I am honored in presenting to you General Robert
E. Wood, who will speak on "Our Foreign Policy."

(

(




CLAY JUDSON.

General Robert E. Wood's Speech

"Our Foreign Policy'*
I hesitated to accept the invitation of my friends,
Dr. Lichtenstein and Mr. Utley, to address this
gathering for two reasons—first, because I do not
feel on a par as a speaker with the very eminent
persons who have addressed these gatherings; second, because my views are opposed to those of a
probable majority of my listeners—and I may add
—opposed to those of some of my dearest friends
and relatives. I have a brother-in-law on the William
Allen White Committee.
But it is one of the beauties of a democracy that
in time of peace, at least, men are free to express
their opinions and honest men respect opposing
opinions if those opinions are sincere and free of
ulterior motive, and now is a time for all honest
men to express their convictions.
^*\

The Hour of Decision
This country is on the eve of momentous decisions.
The results of these decisions may be so far reaching
that they may have an effect for good or bad on the
life of this country for at least a generation. I am
at the stage of life when I do not care as to the effect
on myself or my own generation. I do greatly care
what the effects will be on my children and grandchildren and their generation.
There are two schools of thought in this country
on the subject of our foreign policy. They may be
termed "Interventionists" and "Isolationists." These
terms are not exactly descriptive, because all interventionists are not extreme interventionists and most
isolationists are only isolationists as to Europe and
Asia, but not isolationists as to the balance of North
America and South America.
I except from my discussion those who have
ulterior motives—anything except the welfare of our
country. That would include the Communists who
really desire to destroy our Government; the Nazis
and members of the Bund who put the interests of
Germany above those of this country; some ultrapacifists who forget the interests of their country in
their desire for peace at any price; a limited number
of extreme Anglophiles who put the interests of
Great Britain above those of their own country. ^ ^

Our Common Ground
These schools of thought are in violent opposition,
but there are certain points of agreement among all




classes except perhaps what may be called the lunatic
fringe of our population.
These points of agreement are:
First—The necessity for a strong defense—a
strengthening of our army and navy and air force.
Our people are practically unanimous on this subject—the only differences are on differences of detail. It is obvious that the richest nation of the
world, in a world of force, must make itself impregnable.
Second—The belief that no foreign nation must
obtain possession of any part of the two Americas
and that the United States must be prepared to
defend the North American continent, and at least
that portion of the South American continent as far
as the Equator. There is some difference of opinion
as to whether military and naval protection should
go as far as Cape Horn.
Third—Access to our great industrial plant by
Great Britain within the limits of the neutrality law
that is, unlimited right of purchase by Great
uritain of planes, tanks, munitions of war, raw materials from private manufacturers, provided she can
pay for them and provide her own transportation.
And this I may add is a very great aid.
Without this aid now being given, England could
not long carry on the war, for her supplies of raw
materials, her steel making capacity, munitions and
plane plants are insufficient for a long major war.
Without the production facilities of the United
States she would be crushed. Theoretically, Germany is entitled to the same privilege—actually, on
account of the British blockade, she cannot use our
facilities, but she has no right to complain. I believe the overwhelming majority of the citizens are
in accord with these three principles. I know I am.

Here Differences Begin
But it is when we get beyond the third point that
opinion diverges sharply. The present administration in power, probably the majority of our editors
and columnists, a very influential body of public
opinion as represented by the Committee to Defend
America by Aiding Britain is in favor of our government turning over some of our flying fortresses,
more destroyers, more planes, and merchant ships.
Others, even more extreme, favor an outright alliance with Great Britain and a declaration of war
Germany.
Now what are the fundamental arguments for
this point of view? They may be reduced to three
principal reasons:



First—The totalitarian state with its ideology,
with its record of persecution, is repugnant to our
ideals and should be destroyed, even if we have to
enter a war to accomplish this result.
Second—Our own protection depends on Britain
as our first line of defense, and if she falls, we are
exposed to the onslaught of a totalitarian combination. Per se, it follows that we must give England
all the aid we can, even at the risk of entering
the war.
Third—If Britain is defeated, it will be impossible for a free competitive, unorganized and unmanaged industrial system to compete with a totalitarian system.

War Does Not Destroy Ideologies
As to the first reason, you cannot destroy an
ideology by waging war on it. The conditions
created in Europe by the Versailles Treaty were
largely responsible for the rise of Hitler and ty
Nazi philosophy. The history of Europe for the
100 years is a story of cruelties, persecutions, injustices. No government was more repugnant to our
ideals and ideas than the old Czaristic regime of
Russia—it had over many years a series of pogroms,
but we remained on friendly terms with Russia. Up
to 1917 we had always remained true to the principles of foreign policy laid down by the founders
of our country: the policy of keeping aloof from the
quarrels of Europe and Asia.
The Communistic regime of Russia under Lenin
and Stalin was equally opposed to our principles
and was detested by the majority of our people.
Nevertheless, we have maintained our relations with
Russia, and we have certainly had no idea of making
war on that country.

Sentimentalists or Realists?
A nation cannot be a knight-errant. It must be
realistic. Great Britain, during her entire history,
has been coldly realistic, and her success in building
up her Empire has been due to her realism. As
individuals we can give vent to our generous impulses or even to our pet hates, but our statesmen,
our editors, our moulders of public opinion must
consider that it is not their individual fortunes and
lives that are to be considered, but those of 130,000,000 of their fellow citizens.
Now as to the second reason—our military defense in the event of a German victory. Our country
has gone through a curious transformation of



thought since May 10th. From an underestimate of
the military and economic strength of Germany, it
has gone to the opposite extreme of overestimating
that strength. From some of the remarks heard on
the Eastern seaboard in June, we would have thought
that New York and Boston were in imminent danger
of being bombed.

Bombings Alone Cannot Win
Now the events in Spain, Poland, Belgium and
France showed the major importance of the air
arm when supported by tanks, infantry and a modern army. But Spain snowed that bombing of cities,
unsupported by an army, cannot win a war or even
shake the morale of a population if the nation is of
tough fibre like the Spanish and English peoples.
Apparently the Battle of England is demonstrating
the same principle. Unless an army can cross the
Channel, the German air force cannot impose a decision on England. Casualties and material damage
—yes. The 15,000 casualties in London so far are
but a drop in the bucket for a nation of 45,000,000
people; more casualties were incurred in single days
of the Verdun, Ypres and Somme offensives. The
destruction of apartment houses, stores, public buildings do not constitute a blow to the military strength
of a nation. If the docks, railroads, power plants
and munitions plants are put out of commission, it
does affect the military effort, but unless it is done
on a gigantic scale the nation cannot be subdued,
and all evidence is to the effect that military damage
thus far has not been of such a serious character as
to severely impair the island's defense.

Can England Be Invaded?
As for an invasion, at the great risk of being called
a false prophet, I doubt whether any invasion will
ever be made, and if it is attempted, it will be decisively repulsed. To land 250,000 Germans in England, with mechanized equipment, ammunition and
necessary supplies would be a gigantic operation.
Once landed, that force would have to face 1,500,000
Englishmen under arms, fighting on their own
island behind strong defenses. And to land those
250,000 Germans means practically complete mastery of the air, blocking off the English fleet, complete control of the Channel—none of which objecO t i v e s have yet been attained after more than a
nonth of intensive effort. To sum up, I doubt
whether the island can be conquered, and I am quite
sure the British fleet cannot be put out of commission.



Now we come to our own danger of invasion and
the perfectly fantastic hysteria that pervaded this
country after the battle of France. I think any
competent military or naval expert, certainly the
vast majority, will tell you that there is absolutely
no danger of an invasion of the United States even
if Germany is completely victorious, and I doubt
whether she will be. The amount of shipping required for the transportation of even 250,000 men
of a modern mechanized army with their ammunition and supplies over 3,000 miles of ocean is colossal and it is to be presumed that our own navy and
air force will not be idle.

No Army Can Attack Us
If it is impracticable or at least exceedingly difficult
for an army to cross 25 miles of Channel, what valid
grounds are there for supposing that a large army
can cross 3,000 miles of ocean to invade a continent?
Some will inquire—why should it not be possible'
for Germany to seize bases in Mexico or Centra*
America and attack from those countries. Again,
that presupposes an overwhelming sea power. But
even if that sea power were present, there would
again be the same difficulties of a 3,000 mile long
line of communication for an invading army. And
an army once landed must cross an exceedingly difficult terrain before ever arriving at the Texas border.
I think that hypothesis may be safely dismissed.

Panic First—Then War!
Now we come to the favorite bogey—air attacks.
I quote from Major Al Williams' recent speech,
reprinted in the Congressional Record—"Oceans
and extended lines of communication are still vital
factors in modern warfare. President Roosevelt's
panicky flight schedule for the air invasion of
America is ridiculous, worthy of Hollywood and
certainly not of the White House. To support my
argument against the President's wild flight schedule
for a foreign air invasion of the United States I
offer a single incontrovertible reason. With all their
air power the Germans could not attack and subdue
England from air bases 300 to 500 miles distant.
Instead they seized air bases on the north coast of
Holland, Belgium and France 20 to 100 miles distant
from the coast of England. Each and every stage of
the fantastic itinerary for the air invasion of America would have to be conquered for the establish/
ment of major air bases for the enemy attempting
the job. The President must know this—but apparently the pattern is panic first, and then war."



An Exhausted Germany Is Harmless
All of this presupposes a completely victorious Germany, ready at the end of a long and costly struggle,
to immediately embark on a new and perilous adventure across 3,000 miles of ocean against a nation
of 130,000,000 people. The present war represents
seven years of preparation on the part of Germany.
So-called total war represents a prodigal expenditure
of labor, money and effort. Steel is rapidly consumed, aircraft and mechanical equipment are
rapidly worn out, reserves of all kinds are exhausted,
not to mention the wear and tear on human beings.
A nation that for seven years has been given guns
instead of butter is apt at the end of this war to
demand more butter from its leaders.
So on every count it seems inconceivable to me
that Germany at the end of the war, even if aided
by its allies, who will be in a worse condition of
exhaustion than Germany itself, will attack the
United States. And if this country with its 130,000,000 people and its two great natural ocean bariers cannot defend itself unaided by Britain or
* ybody else, it does not deserve to survive. The
great nation that has to trust to others for its defense is on the downward path to destruction.

Europe Must Have Our Goods
Now as to our economic problems. An economic
war after the war—the loss of our European, Asiatic
and South American trade. I have a high personal
regard for Walter Lippmann's brains and ability, but
I believe his picture of an unequal contest between
a totalitarian economy and a free economy is misleading. After all, when two nations or two continents each have things the other needs trade eventually results regardless of the feelings each may have
for the other. Europe needs us more than we need
Europe—our materials and products are more important to her than hers to us. True, Germany has
reduced largely its purchases from us, but more
from necessity than choice. As far as South America
is concerned, we can always obtain the lion's share
of the trade of Mexico, Central America, Colombia
and Venezuela because we buy the metals of Mexico,
the coffee and bananas of Central America and Colombia, the oil of Venezuela. In those countries,
our geographical location must always give us the
edge. We can take the coffee of Brazil but not its
cotton; so its trade will naturally divide between
Europe and the United States. It is in Argentina
nd Chile that our troubles come. We cannot take
the meat, cotton and wool of the Argentina because
we produce those products ourselves. The same applies to the copper and nitrates of Chile. We cannot



sell unless we buy and that is a far greater obstacle
than all Nazidom.
It must not be forgotten that Germany put on an
intensive drive for trade in South America in the
period 1936-1938, and if my recollection of the
figures is correct, while Germany's percentage of
the trade gained somewhat, the gain was not large,
and it was largely at the expense of Great Britain;
our trade declined only a fraction of one per cent.

We'll Get Our Share of Foreign Trade!
No man can foretell the future, but as long as we
have products South America can use and above all,
if they have products we can use, we will get our
full share of the trade. As for Asia, the same remarks pertain as to Europe. Japan needs us far
more than we need her. Our trade with Japan incidentally runs between five and six times the trade
of China, whom we are making such great efforts
to help. Even if Japan gets control of the Dutch
East Indies—and that is not assured—she is goinf
to be more anxious to sell us rubber and tin t6v
obtain dollar exchange than we are to buy the
products. And if war with Japan comes, we can
get Bolivian tin and develop our synthetic rubber.
We are certainly as resourceful as the Germans who
are filling 90% of their rubber requirements with
the synthetic article.
In 1937 Colombia's trade with us was 168,000,000
pesos, with Germany 40,000,000. Of Venezuela's
trade, the United States took 12.5% of their imports and furnished 53% of the exports, Germany
13.6%. 42.5% of Costa Rica's imports came from
the United States, 23% from Germany. Of her exports 45% went to the United States and 19.5%
to Germany.
As for lack of organization, if needs be, we can
meet fire with fire; we can set up export cartels and
mass purchasing organizations and we can do this
without danger to our system.

The Americas Must Stand Together!
Americans like myself feel that our true mission is
in North America and South America. We stand
today in an unrivalled position. With our resources
and organizing ability we can develop, with our
Canadian friends, an only partially developed continent like North America and a virgin continent
like South America. The reorganization and prope
development of Mexico alone would afford an outlet for our capital and energies for some time to
come. And while I think we should try in every



way to maintain the friendship of our neighbors to
the South, I think we should also make it clearly
understood that no government in Mexico, Central
America and the Caribbean South American countries will be tolerated unless it is friendly to the
United States and that, if necessary, we are prepared
to use force to attain that object.
Instead of what seems to be a sane objective we
are on the verge of throwing our treasure and our
blood into a European war, with consequences that
no one can foretell.
I respect the honest views of honest Americans,
no matter how opposed they may be to my own,
but there are two matters that I resent: First is the
attempt to smear any one opposed to what I might
call the majority publicized viewpoint of what we
should do in this war. When the editor of a pink
New York sheet denounces Col. Lindbergh as the
head of the Fifth Column in the U. S., we have
reached the summit of mud slinging. You may
disagree violently with Col. Lindbergh, you may
feel he has made serious mistakes, but you have no
right to denounce a courageous, patriotic American
citizen as a traitor merely because he disagrees with
your views. That is as bad as the Nazis, an attempt
to suppress freedom of speech.

o

The other point I resent is the way the issue is
being presented to the American people. We are
being edged into the war without the masses' knowledge. We have the anomalous situation of the polls
showing a majority of the people favoring a course
that is bound to get us into the war, while the same
polls show 86% of the same people oppose actual
entry into the war. That shows that the minds of
the people are confused.

How Wars Are Sold to Us
Many of my hearers were adults at the time of the
previous war and were familiar with the propaganda
that led up to that war. If you want to know the
history of that propaganda and its falsity, read a
book by Sir Philip Gibbs with the title of "Now It
Can Be Told," in which he admitted the outrageous
lies that were perpetrated on the American public.
And Sir Philip Gibbs was no German but the leading
English war correspondent, knighted by his King.
The London Economist in a recent issue said it was
only a question of time until American public
opinion could be brought to the point where we
would actively enter the war.
I believe a majority of the people who are advocating "aid short of war" do not desire us to enter
the war. But there are others who do desire us to



enter the war, who are taking the necessary steps
to prepare the American people for active participation, who would enter it tomorrow if they dared,
who are today in practical alliance with England,
and unfortunately they are the people who are
shaping our national policy today. You hear in
Washington today that we are now in the war. You
hear predictions from men, and men who ought to
know, that we will actively enter the war within
sixty days after the election.
The American people should think this matter
through. The course we are pursuing is bound to
involve us in the war. You cannot play with fire
and not get burned. You cannot have your government, not private manufacturers, transfer its equipment to foreign powers, you cannot have your
government in an unofficial alliance with a foreign
power, you cannot be a meddler in Indo-China,
berate Italy and Germany without eventually involving the nation in war, and if war comes I venture to predict that we will repeat the history of the
last war. When the declaration of war was made in
1917 originally it was intended to send only the
Navy to the assistance of the Allies.

Man-Power, Too!
Joffre came over in the spring of 1917, told the
plight of the French Army after the 1917 spring
Champagne offensive, where whole divisions of the
French Army mutinied, and implored us to send
over a token force,, otherwise France would collapse.
We sent Pershing and the First Division, about
30,000 men. Then came the impending collapse of
Russia, frantic calls for more men, then the great
German offensive of 1918 and the rout of the British
Fifth Army, more frantic appeals, until finally we
put under arms 4,000,000 men, sent 2,000,000 men
to France, spent 20 billion dollars and had 150,000
casualties. I need not refer to our treatment by our
former allies after the Armistice. They took the
loot, we did not even get thanks.
I do not often agree with the editorials on foreign
policy in my friend Frank Knox's paper, but there
is a recent editorial with which I am in 100%
agreement. The editorial quoted two recent speeches
by both Presidential candidates in which both
pledged themselves never to send American boys to
France. The editorial spoke of both these pledges
as political bunk and very truly stated that if we
entered the war we would enter it to win and, if
necessary to win, we would send an expeditionary
force—and that is the absolute truth.



The People Must Know the Truth
The issue should be honestly presented to the people.
If we aid Britain, short of war and beyond the
limits of the Neutrality Act, it ultimately means
war and should mean war. If we enter the war,
we must enter it with all our strength in men and
money. That is the only way to win a war.
If the military reports from abroad are correct.
I feel there is no doubt that Great Britain can defend her island, her dominions like Canada, Australia and New Zealand. She may lose Egypt, the
Suez and Gibraltar, though this is extremely doubtful. So far the Italians have shown no signs of real
offensive strength. There is little doubt that England
can make a negotiated peace by which she can keep
her fleet and her colonies, but which will leave Germany the economic control of Western Europe. But
she cannot decisively defeat Germany unaided. Her
statesmen privately admit that, and say that for her
o gain a decisive victory we will have to actively
inter the war. One of the great mistakes made by
the Allies in this war was that in its first six months
they thought they could win a safe economical war,
with France sitting behind the Maginot line and
England maintaining its blockade, with little expenditure of blood and a minimum expenditure of
treasure. For us to actively enter the war means
ships, planes, money, men, expeditionary forces.
That is the issue that must ultimately be presented
to the American people, and it should be presented
openly, honestly and squarely.

Our Own Democracy Will Be
Sacrificed
In deciding this issue, the American people should
face the costs. We start with a debt of $50,000.000,000. With the enormous cost of waging modern
war, the cost of sending forces over 3,000 miles of
ocean, of engaging our navy in the Far East, we
would ultimately face a debt of from 100 to 150
billions. Victorious or defeated, we will be faced at
the conclusion of such a war with great economic
dislocations—the rich would face a capital levy, the
middle classes impoverishment and the masses a
lowered standard of living and the loss of most of
the social gains so far secured.
^^

Competent observers believe that if the war is
prolonged in Europe over one or two years, it will
result in Communism in all Europe, and a species
of National Socialism in England. If we are involved, it probably spells the end of capitalism all
over the world.




Defend America First, Last, Always
I would unhesitatingly say to throw everything we
have into a war to defend the United States or our
own sphere of influence, which is the North American continent and part, if not all, of the South
American continent. I do not think the American
people should make these sacrifices to interfere in
the quarrels of Europe and Asia, old, sick and overpopulated continents with ancient rivalries that cannot be healed. It is up to the American people to
decide whether they want to make these sacrifices
to preserve not England but the British Empire, and
help regulate Europe and Asia. But they should
make the decision with all the cards on the table,
not misled by artifice and subterfuge.
But if that decision is given affirmatively, I think
you will find Americans like myself, who sincerely
believe such a course spells disaster to the nation,
will be at their posts of duty in the service of this
country. I am old fashioned enough to believe in
the toast offered by Stephen Decatur back in 1816
"Our Country! In her intercourse with foreign
nations, may she always be in the right: but Our
Country, right or wrong."

Additional copies of this speech can be secured by
addressing America First Committee, 1806 Board of
Trade Building. Chicago.




;

O

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National Committee
GENERAL ROBERT E. WOOD, Acting Chairman
CHESTER BOWLES

THOMAS N. MCCARTER

WILLIAM R. CASTLE

RAY MCKAIG

JANET AYER FAIRBANK

STERLING MORTON

JOHN T. FLYNN

DR. ALBERT W. PALMER

HENRY FORD

WILLIAM H. REGNERY

BISHOP WILBUR E. HAMMAKER EDWARD RICKENBACKER
GEN. THOMAS HAMMOND

LESSING J. ROSENWALD

JAY C. HORMEL

EDWARD L. RYERSON. JR.

GEN. HUGH S. JOHNSON

R. DOUGLAS STUART, JR.

CLAY JUDSON

LOUIS TABER

KATHRYN LEWIS

OSWALD GARRISON VILLARD

ALICE ROOSEVELT LONGWORTH MRS. BURTON K. WHEELER
HANFORD MACNIDER

DR. GEORGE H. WHIPPLE

R. DOUGLAS STUART, JR., National Director

JOIN TO DEFEND
AMERICA FIRST
All Americans who see eye-to-eye on the
principles of the America First Committee
are invited to unite to promote the real interests of their country.
To Defend America First, every loyal
American must say:
1. I believe in building an impregnable national defense.
2. I believe no foreign power nor group of
powers can successfully invade a prepared America.
3. I believe that sending our ships, planes,
and materials of war to a belligerent
overseas, dangerously weakens national
defense at home and threatens to involve
America in war abroad.
4. I believe that American democracy can
only be preserved by keeping out of the
European war.

AMERICA FIRST COMMITTEE
National Headquarters
1806 Board of Trade Building
CHICAGO
R. DOUGLAS STUART, JR., National Director