AXIS DIPLOMACY FAILS
By ERWIN D. CANHAM
By Air Mail VIEWED from the United States, the Pact of Berlin which brought Japan formally into the Axis was a gigantic blunder. It is assumed that the United States was the in- tended object of the Pact. Dispatches of the best American correspondents in Berlin indicate that Germany intended to reduce the weight of America in the European military balance or to prevent that weight from being increased, that the United States was to be presented with a potential enemy in its rear, that the United States would be so impressed by the new might of Axis power that it would abandon Britain as a lost cause.
None of these effects has been produced. Aid to Britain will be increased rather than reduced. The threat of the war has been brought home to Americans as never before. It is now realised that the British Navy is more than ever America's chief bulwark. Its continued possession of the gateways into the Atlantic alone enables the United States to keep the bulk of its fleet in the Pacific, confronting Japan. The only way this situation can be maintained, the only way the United States can hope to preserve its position in the Pacific or in the Atlantic, is to keep Britain on its feet.
Indeed, the Pact of Berlin seems from this side of the Atlantic to be a sign of weakness rather than strength, a recog- nition that the war must be a long one, and that American aid to Britain is becoming increasingly significant. Of course, there is the chance that the Pact was a diplomatic diversion intended to disarm and distract attention from operations on the English Channel or in the Mediterranean. But it is assumed that Britain is no whit less alert because of it, and certainly the United States is neither intimidated nor diverted.
In fact, it seems clear that once again Berlin has completely misunderstood American psychology. During the World War these misconceptions were egregious, and contributed no little to bringing the United States into line as a belligerent. They may have the same long-range effect now. For cer. tainly the Pact has aligned American and British interests very closely. British sea-bases are becoming American bases too. Canada is closely co-operating with this country, and may soon take advantage of many new facilities here. Australia is laying all its cards on the table in the State Department. London makes it clear that Singapore and other British or Dominion sea- or air-bases in the Pacific area are open to American forces for the asking. As proof of national unity, Wendell L. Willkie, the Republican Presidential candidate, has actually urged President Roosevelt to take advantage of this opportunity in Asia.
While all these long-range implications are clear, the short- range programme is not yet clarified. It is to be presumed that the British programme of wants here will be met seriatim, a little slowly perhaps during the electoral period, but no less steadily. There is still no sign of actual American belliger- ency, but there is a growing realisation in public opinion generally that " We'll be in this thing before we're through." Which in all probability means that the present drift will con- tinue, that aid " short of war " will grow and grow, until it will no longer be possible to distinguish between belligerency and non-belligerency. Certainly the re-election of Mr. Roose- velt will not be a mandate to declare war.
There is a paradoxical advantage in the fiasco at Dakar. If Italy or Germany should obtain a foothold and start any preparations there, it would deeply rock Americans. In fact, this sort of overt threat at the Western. Hemisphere is about what is required to bring the United States into war-declaring mood. People here were naturally gravely disheartened at the collapse of the de Gaulle effort to take this point so important for the Americas. But the failure increased apprehensions, whereas success would have allayed them.
The United States is not seriously alarmed at Japan. A war across 7,000 miles of ocean would be an awkward business. Unless this country sees fit to declare war and tackle the very difficult job of fighting Japan now, that newest member of the Axis may well have its own way in Indo-China. An attack on the Dutch and British possessions in Malaysia would also deeply rock American opinion because of tin and rubber. It would force us a long way towards war, but I do not believe it would actually precipitate a declaration here.
Yet if conditions continue as they are shaping, and an American-Japanese war finally does come, the United States would start with many advantages. Japan's formal entrance into the Axis speedily followed the American embargo on scrap- iron shipments. For Japan's need of iron is desperate. It has equal need of copper and nickel, most of which it had obtained from Canada. With Canada, we have it within our power to cut off a large part of Japan's supply of these three essential minerals. We can also cut off aviation petrol, thus perhaps forcing Japan into the gamble of the Indies—and it is recog- nised that it would not be simple to take either Singapore or the Dutch possessions. Japan has already been bled white in its war in China, has gone through years of stringency with- out achieving its objectives. It has expended much treasure. many men, and Chinese resistance continues.
But with the United States actively opposing Japan, the island empire would have greatly increased difficulties quite outside any possible military operations. It would lose its market for silk products and many other exports now sold here or in South America where the United States might exert financial control. It would suffer an extreme shortage in machine-tools, which Germany is in no position to supply. This industry, which is the technological basis of modern industrial and military power, is extremely deficient in Japan. Stop the flow of metal-working machinery, say the experts, and Japan's power to continue her war in China, or to retain her dwindling export trade, would be severely hit. And there are technical deficiencies in Japan's army and navy, particularly in its extremely weak naval aviation—where the United States is very strong. Americans realise that Japan may be in desperate mood, and may believe she can push ahead without resistance. .et, as long-range students of American policy have always felt, the Orient may be our way in to the European war. The fact is becoming increasingly more probable. By virtue of the Pact of Berlin, the war has now really become World War the Second. Hence if the United States is drawn into conflict with Japan it will also inescapably be in the war as a whole. Domestically, the preparations for war proceed swiftly. On October 16th registration for the draft begins, and the number of Americans under arms for training will mount steadily thereafter. Factories are working at increased speeds, and expansion programmes promise definitely that within a year the tempo of American industrial power will really hit a war- time pitch. Four destroyers are being placed in commission by the United States Navy every week. Within a few months the jo which were sold to Britain will be replaced by far better new ones, and by that time they too may be at the disposal of Britain. This remark is not to hold out a false hope. As I have so often written, the exact shape of American participa- tion in the war cannot be foreseen, and there may never be a declaration. But the Axis, in the Pact of Berlin, has seen to it that this nation shall advance another long step toward participation.