An undergraduate explained to me that it would be a great mistake to infer from editorials of this kind that student opinion as a whole was pro Nazi. The argument seems to be that the worst fate that could befall America would be to become involved in the war. If we should go to war it would certainly be upon the Allied side. Therefore you feel it is your duty to blackguard the Allies upon every possible occasion and to soft pedal the considered brutality of Germany. That explanation does not seem to us to be worthy of your heart or even of that brilliant young surgeon, your mind. Great Britain and France have learned to their cost that fear of war is no basis for a national policy, but, while you are very ready to criticize the tragically inept diplomacy of Chamberlain and Daladier, you seem to us to be heading in exactly the same direction.
Let us have a look at this isolationism which you cling to so fervently. You say that you are ready to defend America if and when we are attacked, but that that is not likely to happen, and that in the meantime America's opportunity lies in remaining completely apart. Someone has told you that we were hoodwinked into the last war by a stealthy combination of munitions makers, Wall Street magnates, and British propaganda. You have read a lot of books on the subject, including Walter Millis's Road to War, which you say has made 'a profound impression' upon you. You are absolutely convinced, on the basis of a pleasant trip through Bavaria last summer, that the Germans are a nice people and you can't imagine wanting to fight them. Anyway, it is all Chamberlain's fault for embarking on that ridiculous policy of appeasement. You say that we did not get excited about Ethiopia and Czechoslovakia, so why should you get excited about the fate of Norway, Holland, and Belgium?
I think you will recognize these arguments as old familiar friends in campus discussion. Are you satisfied with them? I am not, and I cannot believe that you are either. Nor can I believe that Colonel Lindbergh reflects your sentiments. Lindbergh recoils from the idea of sending aid to the Allies as that might ultimately involve us in war. His policy is much simpler. 'We insist upon military bases being placed wherever they are needed for our safety, regardless of who 0owns the territory involved.' In other words, he advocates our following the German example in Norway. Ignore the independence of weaker countries and take what you must have for defense. That is the inevitable conclusion to Colonel Lindbergh's 'realism.'
Since the subjugation of the Low Countries and then France, a good many people have changed their minds about the issues of this war. History has become a kaleidoscopic process in which the isolationist of yesterday reappears as the interventionist of today. If you are morally bewildered by the war, you are certainly in good company, for you have with you most of the Presidential candidates, but I am surprised that your bewilderment and mine spring from such very different sources. You are disgusted more than our generation realizes by any sort of moral appeal. I am disgusted by any appeal that is not founded on morality. In the last few years we have all heard of the timid souls who look under the bed every night to make sure that a Communist is not lurking there. I believe that you look under the bed every night for propaganda. Though you pride yourself on being able to recognize it under any disguise, there is nothing that you dread so much. The fact that the last war or, to be more exact, the last peace did not make the world safe for democracy has proved to you the terrible fallacy of all idealism. Any expression of patriotism makes you back away into your corner. It is immediately suspect as an incentive to war.
Forgive me if I have mistaken your position, but your distrust of ideals frightens me. It frightens me because, if it is true, it is our fault even more than it is yours. Our teaching, or at least the emphasis in our teaching, must have been all wrong. If we have made you think that there is no problem in life which cannot be solved by a rationally objective approach, then we are guilty, like Saul, of having played the fool and erred exceedingly.