29 MARCH 1940, Page 18


SIR,—I have rarely read two articles that showed a finer appreciation of the thinking of another people than those on America by Erwin D. Canham and Harold Nicolson in your number of February 16th. I wonder if I might be allowed to add something to a picture that lacks very little. I come into contact daily with many students who are in just the spiritual dilemma Mr. Nicolson describes. Consciously or unconsciously they cannot face the fact that there may be a right and wrong side in War. They have persuaded them- selves that both sides are in the 'wrong.

They argue that War is wrong and that no good can come of it. I think that many of us believe the latter, but where we differ from them is in the realisation that it is not a simple matter of choosing war or peace. We feel that England was faced not with a decision but with an inevitability ; that War "happened" to us and the choice was between accepting reality and denying it. But is it surprising that a refusal to give up this belief in a freedom of choice should come very slowly?

Mr. Nicolson compares America today with England in pre-Munich days. I should put the date earlier and say 1935 —the time of the first rearmament and the Peace Ballot. We believed then in freedom of choice and we resisted the propa- ganda of the realists who tried to build up a navy and an army. I remember in England noticing the gradual progres- sion of the rearmament idea through the Tory papers of the Illustrwed London News type to Gaumont-British News and the popular Press, and today America is being influenced in just the same way, and resenting it just as we did. Three thousand miles of ocean is a comfortable protection against reality, and the time-lag between England and America only natural. They will get to a realist point of view in titr.:, —quickly if Hitler becomes really dangerous, slowly if it a slow war.

Meanwhile let us remember what we felt ourselves try not to break too rudely into this dream-state. Let remember that it is based on fear, however idealist it tn..v appear, and that ours was based on fear, too. It is none less. natural for that. Let us remember, too, that one of t:.e natural reactions to fear is resentment and not become resent- ful ourselves when America shows anger at our censorship Sr our blockade. Any psychiatrist can tell us that if someone tries to evade reality to argue or become angry only driv,s him further into an " isolationist " world of his own.—I am,