JUNE 15, 1945
HYDE PARK, Thursday—I concluded my discussion of compulsory military service yesterday by saying that our search must be for that which will give us the greatest security and, at the same time, the greatest hope for future peace among nations. While none of us can give definite answers, all of us can bring up subjects which have to be considered in making tentative progress.
Those who feel that security for this country cannot lie only in the genuine desire of our people for peace, but must also find us willing at all times to keep ourselves fully prepared for war, have advanced the theory that we must have a great navy, a great air force and a citizens' army. That is, we must have compulsory military training for one year, they say, if we desire only a small standing army which will be the nucleus for expansion when necessary. They claim that this program will cost us less than a large standing army, which we would have to maintain if we did not give a year of military training to every male citizen in the country. They claim that George Washington himself advocated a citizens' army, feeling that this is a more democratic way of meeting the obligations of the citizens for defense of the country.
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They have one argument which, in the light of history, must give us pause. They say that in both of the last wars we were shielded by the fact that our Allies went to war first, thus giving us time to prepare ourselves and to become the arsenal of production for the materials of war. They add that we cannot always expect this good fortune; that in the next war the aggressor nation or nations will profit by the lessons of the past wars. They will know that we are the first nation to be conquered. They will attack us first.
It is common knowledge now that the Nazis in underground factories were preparing weapons which—had the European war lasted longer—could have bombed our cities very precisely from the homeland of Germany. Their talk of secret weapons was not all talk. Our own scientists felt that research might be going on in Germany, as it was going on in this country, which would lead to discoveries of value in peacetime if used for the good of human beings, but which would also furnish weapons of great potential destructive power.
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We must bear all of these things in mind when we discuss how we are going to live in the next few years. It may be that this kind of military preparation is essential until we get a peace organization functioning; until we gain the confidence of many peoples throughout the world, and so improve the living conditions of the average human being that the incentives to war are more remote than they have ever been before.
One of my boys wrote me from the Pacific: "No matter how hard it is to feed the peoples of Europe outside of Germany, we must make the effort until their first harvest comes in, for there is no freedom without food." To me that has always been self-evident. But I think there are other arguments which we must also consider, and in my next column I want to cover them.