Prelude to Victory

By James B. RestonKNOPF
“THIS is not a book so much as it is an outburst of bad temper against careless thinking; bureaucratic officials; selfish ‘special groups,’ . . . people who think wars don’t really settle anything; people who want to ‘get back to normal’; people who think time and money are on our side; and people who are afraid to win because of post-war problems. In short, it is an outburst of temper against anything and anybody who is concentrating on anything but winning this war.”
One can only add that it is a strikingly honest and rational outburst of good temper. The book offers one man’s feelings and impressions — and yet it stands out in singular contrast to the common “Alone in Cubia” type of journalistic surveys of the present crisis. The author is absorbed in things wholly outside himself; no book has less taint of the ego, or the merely personal perspect ive. Even when the opinions or assumptions are mistaken, they are honestly wrong; and it is a fair risk to assert that no commentary on the general problem of the Hitler War is so free from the commonly accepted catchwords and clichés. The major impulse in writing the book was evidently to break down the catchwords the author found around him : they are above all the catchwords current in Washington, D. C. The most intimate impression conveyed by the book is the conflict between the real beliefs of a Washington correspondent and the headlines offered to the readers of the American press. Mr. Reston happens to be on the staff of the New York Times, but his book is a defiant challenge to every paper that maintains a bureau in Washington. He assails the “fundamental illusions which are minimizing our effort” — but any attentive reader of the Times (or other papers) will recognize in these “illusions” the daily ration offered by his early morning reading. Elmer Davis cannot be asked to sweep away this paradox: one of the most real needs of the immediate future is the change of heart which will move the press to state what it knows, and what it really thinks. The effort to “guide opinion” has been a total failure.
“The Arsenal of Democracy from 1940 to the middle of 1942 was Britain, not the United States.” “We cannot bring our armored divisions to bear on the enemy by sending them into the deserts of the Southwest United States.” When Mr. Reston is able to get his own paper to express these views, his book will have achieved its purpose.
T. H. T.