SEPTEMBER 2, 1947
HYDE PARK, Monday—In the past few days I have been reading and listening to the accounts of the American Legion parades and of the good times the men who fought in two wars can still manage to have when they get together. I have also read and listened to a number of the speeches.
These speeches were all on a very high plane, and almost all of them were about preparedness for war. If they had been given in 1943 or 1944, I do not think that they would seem quite as unrealistic as they do today. Then, we knew little or nothing about an atom bomb. Now we live in the atomic age, and in view of this fact—taken in conjunction with the reports of the scientists on what the new bombs are going to be able to accomplish—these speeches seem rather futile. If I understand what the scientists tell us, the next war will be won by the country which starts first. No one is very sure, however, whether the use of these new bombs will not affect the whole world, so that the country attacking and the country attacked may both be wiped out. All the scientists seem fairly well agreed that our world, as we know it, will be gone.
I can subscribe to universal military training. A year spent in service and education which would emphasize the responsibility of a citizen in a democracy to his country would seem to me of value to both men and women. But to accept, as most of the speakers seem to be doing, that within a short time we must be prepared to go through another war, and to talk of it as though it were just another war, seems to me completely unreasonable. The next war, the scientists tell us, means annihilation. To prepare for it, therefore, is to prepare for our own suicide.
Up to now we have got around a table, at the end of wars, and come to some kind of agreement. Obviously, that agreement might have been reached without going to war. Now the nation that we look upon as our potential enemy is the USSR. Since we look upon her as a potential enemy, she undoubtedly looks upon us as a potential enemy. I still believe that, on the top levels, the gentlemen could sit down around a table, take the questions one by one which divide us, find some kind of compromise on each one and live by that compromise. The way to get together is to make some kind of agreement and then adhere to it meticulously. Adjustments would have to be made and new conditions would have to be met. But if the original agreement covered the essentials of today, and if each side lived up to its promises, the next step would be easier. Let's stop talking about the next war and try to stress a way to attain a present peace.