Thursday, May 27, 2010

Seventy Years Ago: FDR Rallies Nation in Darkest Hours of World War Two, Interesting Parallels to Today

By Barry Rubin

Seventy years ago, May 1940, was just about the darkest moment ever for the democratic world. Germany was overrunning France, Belgium, Luxemburg, and the Netherlands. Nazi Germany and the Communist USSR were allied. Britain was scrambling to pull out as many men as possible from Dunkirk and an invasion of Britain seemed imminent.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt went on the radio and told his fellow Americans to abandon isolationism, face the threats, prepare their forces, ignore those who would destroy America from within, and preserve their way of life. He spoke, too, of the need to prepare for the great struggle ahead.

He did not apologize nor did he shrink from meeting the challenge. He inspired by extolling America's greatness and piety.

"There are many among us who in the past closed their eyes to events abroad--because they believed in utter good faith what some of their fellow Americans told them -- that what was taking place in Europe was none of our business; that no matter what happened over there, the United States could always pursue its peaceful and unique course in the world.
"Obviously, a defense policy based on that is merely to invite future attack....

"In some quarters, with this rude awakening has come fear, fear bordering on panic....It is whispered by some that, only by abandoning our freedom, our ideals, our way of life, can we build our defenses adequately, can we match the strength of the aggressors....

"Today we are more realistic. But let us not be calamity-howlers and discount our strength....

"Today's threat to our national security is not a matter of military weapons alone. We know of other methods, new methods of attack.

"The Trojan Horse. The Fifth Column that betrays a nation unprepared for treachery. Spies, saboteurs and traitors are the actors in this new strategy. With all of these we must and will deal vigorously.

"But there is an added technique for weakening a nation at its very roots, for disrupting the entire pattern of life of a people. And it is important that we understand it.

"The method is simple. It is, first, discord, a dissemination of discord. A group--not too large--a group that may be sectional or racial or political -- is encouraged to exploit its prejudices through false slogans and emotional appeals. The aim of those who deliberately egg on these groups is to create confusion of counsel, public indecision, political paralysis and eventually, a state of panic....
"For more than three centuries we Americans have been building on this continent a free society, a society in which the promise of the human spirit may find fulfillment. Commingled here are the blood and genius of all the peoples of the world who have sought this promise.

"We have built well. We are continuing our efforts to bring the blessings of a free society, of a free and productive economic system, to every family in the land. This is the promise of America.

"It is this that we must continue to build--this that we must continue to defend.

"It is the task of our generation, yours and mine. But we build and defend not for our generation alone. We defend the foundations laid down by our fathers. We build a life for generations yet unborn. We defend and we build a way of life, not for America alone, but for all mankind. Ours is a high duty, a noble task...."

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