"Would you hear the Voice of the World?, oh, you dreamers of dreams?"


Senator James A. Reed Summarizes Case For A Strong American Navy

Argument Equally Valid For An Adequate Missile Defense Today

United States Senate, January 30, 1929:
[Note: We once again turn to Senator James A. Reed of Missouri to demonstrate the art of effective debate.]

Mr. President, I hesitate to take the time of the Senate to discuss a bill that has already been so thoroughly debated. However, some views have been expressed which I think call for a reply.

There are at work in this country forces which, to me, seem inimical to the public welfare and the safety of the Nation.

Diogenes lived a good deal in dreamland as well as in a tub. Walking one day with his eyes fixed on the skies, he fell into a ditch--where dreamers generally land. A practical, hard-headed, sensible old lady said to him, "Mr. Philosopher, when your feet are on the ground, your head should not be in the skies."

The business of government is intensely practical. The great body of American people are busy in their homes, in their workshops, in their fields. They send to Washington men to represent them. These representatives ought to be watchmen upon the tower. Their vision, so far as human limitations permit, should encompass the conditions of the world. The American people have the right to believe that their Representatives are keenly alive to international situations, that they take no chances that can, by prudence, be avoided; that they consider only the welfare of their country, placing its aspirations and destiny above those of all other nations and peoples; never for a moment losing sight of the fact that by preserving this Republic they will perform the greatest possible service to mankind the world over--for the star of America has guided all races of men from the night of tyranny into the dawn of the day of universal liberty.

Government, I repeat, is practical. We do not sojourn in a land of dreams. We live amongst men and amongst nations--nations that vary in the degrees of their civilization from cannibalism to philosophy; races of men who are dominant, forceful, ambitious, restless, determined to gain and keep advantage.

I desire in no manner to reflect upon any nation. I am largely in accord with the eloquent statement of the distinguished Senator from Maryland, made a day or two since, in which he spoke so highly of the British people. In consonance with that I can pay the same meed of respect and admiration for the great German people, the Scandinavian countries, to Holland, and to France--indeed to all those countries which have established civilizations, cultivated the arts, and forwarded the march of progress. But, sir, we must remember that all races have their own particular ambitions and their own special interests. Their hearts beat true to those interests. Their souls are not consumed with yearnings for the interests of the United States.

The application of a little common sense to the affairs of life would dissipate some of the mists and clouds in which the pacifists are lost. In our own land, neighbors contend with neighbors; cities with cities; business rivals crush business rivals; great corporations destroy smaller corporations; powerful individuals break down the trade, the commerce, and the business of smaller individuals. And we know that, in the end, the ability to defend himself is the best security any man living upon this earth can have. The defenseless are always the victims.

Considering the case of nations, you must accentuate the rule, because the elements of personal sympathy and compassion are absent. There are no particular ties to bind other nations to us or us to other nations. Governments of other nations must consider their own people and their own interests. If our commerce expands, it is largely at their expense. If our Nation grows rich, it is, in part, to their disadvantage. Besides, there is a background which is not to be disregarded. I refer to prejudices, deep-rooted in the centuries, to economic conditions which frequently force governments to act even to the point of making war.

Accordingly, when we consider the question of the American Navy, we must regard the problem not as of dreamland, but as one of this earth as this earth is. We must, therefore, not estimate the governors of the nations as angels recruited from the skies, anointed with the oil of holiness, and exuding the sweet perfumes of paradise. We must view these governors as practical men, often relentless in their ambitions and ruthless in their revenges.

The first duty of the Senate is to protect America, to make certain that America is safe. We should, therefore, close our ears to the whimperings and whinings of those who have too often led us into mistakes and blunders. To my mind, the lowest form of animal life is the man who thinks more of other countries than he does of his own country. I despise internationalism and internationalists.

Mr. President, what is the cry raised in opposition to this bill? It is that a new dispensation has come upon this earth; that the hearts of men have changed; that no longer are there such passions left as greed, avarice, hatred, ambition, or selfishness. Gentlemen here have assumed to speak for the world, to express "the world's opinion." Self-appointed and self-anointed, they declare themselves to be "the voice of the world." They know the inner consciousness of all races. They speak with authority for the universe.

Sir, I confess myself utterly lacking in those divine attributes. I only beg to suggest that the best way to ascertain national policies is to observe national acts. We should find out not only what is being said in diplomatic propaganda, but also what is being done in the armories of the nations. Therefore, I invite attention to a few plain facts which ought to be considered and even comprehended by gentlemen who profess to have surveyed the world and to know just what "the world is thinking," and to have discovered that every heart is now kindly and that the spirit of Christ hovers over the land and the sea.

Mr. President, the so-called "general opinion of mankind," of which we have heard so much, can not be ascertained by the dreams of dreamers, by the shouts of enthusiasts, by the propaganda of pacifists, or by the treason of internationalists who subordinate the interests of their native land to those of foreign states.

I repeat, the opinion of the nations must be determined by the policies they persistently follow:

In Great Britain that opinion is manifest in a standing army of 404,000 men; in a navy of more than 700 great fighting ships; in fortresses that line the shores of the world and dot the seas; in guns that command every lane of the oceans; in the present construction of vast fortresses; in the present building of 78 great vessels of war.

The opinion of France is expressed in a standing army of 727,000 men; in a reserve army of 4,610,000 men; in preparations to dominate the air; in the creation of deadly submarines--the assassins of the sea.

The opinion of Russia is demonstrated in a standing army of 658,000 men and in a reserve army of 5,425,000 men.

The opinion of Italy is registered in a standing army of 380,000 men and a reserve army of 2,990,000 men.

The opinion of Poland, recently born, child of the new millennium, is recorded in a standing army of 242,000 men and in a reserve army of 2,000,000 men.

The opinion of Yugoslavia, likewise child of the new day, is shown in its standing army of 142,000 men and its reserves of more than 2,000,000 men.

The opinion of Czechoslovakia, another millennium product, appears in its standing army of 140,700 and in its reserves of 1,489,000.

The opinion and purpose of Japan is proclaimed by its standing army of 210,000 men and its reserves of 2,038,000 men. That opinion and purpose is brought down to date by the 16 cruisers and 33 submarines now in process of construction.

Would you hear "the voice of the world," oh, you dreamers of dreams? Listen and your ears will be greeted by the roar of vast furnaces forming the steel armor of dreadnoughts--by the chorus of mighty hammers shaping the keels of great battleships--by the hum of countless lathes fashioning rifles and machine guns--by the whir of the propellers of innumerable airplanes. Look and your eyes will behold the skilled engineers of every nation planning and directing the construction of invincible armaments. They are calculating the distance of every shot, the elevation of every gun. Millions of men, at the command of skilled officers, are marching and countermarching in every evolution of defense and attack. Unlock the secret cabinets of the war councils of the world and you will there find ready plans for the sinking of the American fleet, the bombardment of American cities; the maps of the roads over which invading hosts may some day march across our soil. Remember, as you look, that back of these governmental agencies are peoples who uncomplainingly pay taxes and with unquestioned loyalty yield obedience.

In the face of these obvious conditions the imbecilic cry of safety is raised. We are told to put our faith in paper treaties. But remember when war comes paper treaties are but scraps blown about by the winds of passion. Remember paper treaties will not arrest the force of explosive shells, will not hold back invading armies, will not save our navies upon the seas, or protect our forces upon the lands. Even the naked valor of our valorous men may not be sufficient to rescue us. The pages of history are red with heroic blood shed by men bearing inferior arms. But even if the heroism of our sailors and soldiers might triumph over superior arms, what shall I say of the man who is willing to send the sons of America half armed to death when, if properly equipped, they could win the victory with small loss of life.

If war shall come it will boot us little, as we behold our unbalanced and inefficient fleet sent to the bottom, to say that we were misled by great speeches of pacifist Senators who assured us "that war would never come." As our warships engage the enemy, as our lads throw overboard the lifeboats knowing that if their vessel is sunk by superior guns they must all go to watery graves, small solace will it be to them that pacifists passed resolutions that there should never be any more wars. Small solace will it be to those who stand upon the headlands and watch the conflict, to know that these half-armed vessels fought bravely, that our men died like heroes and that our fleet went down with flags flying and bands playing "America."

Such, sir, is the proposition confronting us. It is one of practical common sense. We are not given the choice as to whether or not we want to live in a world enjoying heavenly peace. Such a world does not presently exist. We are living on this cold, hard earth as it is. Men have not been saints in the past, and will not be transformed into saints by the resolutions of committees or the treaties of diplomats.

The man who would lull us to sleep in time of danger, the man who teaches that there should be no love of country, the man who declares that the citizen should not be taught to fight and die for his country's rights is unworthy to live under the American flag.

Mr. President, we ought to have learned something from the experiences of the past. The history of the centuries is before us. No lesson is more profound or inescapable than that there must be preparation or there will come defeat. War, today, is not a mere matching of personal valor. War is largely a matter of machinery. A single squad of men with a machine gun fortunately situated may mow down a regiment of the bravest soldiers who ever went to battle. A cannon that can shoot two or three miles further than its antagonist can destroy that antagonist. The bravery of the gunner can not make up for the lack of range. The finest captain who ever commanded a vessel of war is absolutely helpless if engaged by a vessel of superior speed armed with guns of a superior range; for the latter can lie out of range and sink the inferior vessel without even the chance of an effective return shot.

It requires months and years to create effective machinery. The nation that does not possess that machinery will, in every contest, go down to defeat unless, because of the possession of superior man power, it is able to hold the field, notwithstanding the disadvantage. In that case, however, it must heap its dead in windrows, saturate its soil with blood needlessly shed, and endure the pangs and tortures of months and years while creating the armament which should have been prepared in advance.

Mr. President, valor half armed can never resist valor fully armed. History is replete--replete to nauseation--with examples.

The massed armies of the world broke before the phalanxes of Alexander.

In the First Punic War, the legions of Rome were scattered by the elephants of Hannibal.

The warriors of Gaul and Germany fell before the swords of Rome's trained legions.

The Saxons were ridden down by the mailed cavalry of William the Conqueror.

At Agincourt, the knighthood of France was destroyed by the longbows of English yeomen.

Napoleon's dream of world empire vanished when the superior fleet of Nelson destroyed the French ships at Trafalgar.

The dominance of Spain ended and her decay and fall began when Drake's cannon sank the Armada.

Holland's vision of commercial supremacy was ended when the British fleet destroyed the Dutch men-of-war.

Napoleon declared, "God fights with the strongest artillery," and proved his thesis as he swept to destruction the allied forces of Europe. What a pity it was that he did not have the advice of the Senator from Iowa! He might have saved a lot of cannon.

Yes; Napoleon died at St. Helena, but not until he had for nearly 20 years held the united hosts of Europe at bay and overrun country after country. He was never crushed until those armies finally, after infinite losses, had reached a point of preparation equal to his, and then, with the world surrounding him, now at last prepared, Napoleon surrendered.

Had Napoleon possessed a fleet superior to that of Great Britain there never would have been a Waterloo, and the tricolors of France would have floated over the entire Continent of Europe.

The ridiculous statement has been made that in the World War the British Navy was useless. All intelligent persons except the Senator from Iowa know that the British fleet bottled up the German fleet and held it bottled up.

Likewise, the equally absurd statement is made that the English fleet suffered a terrible defeat at Jutland and fled from the scene of the action. All will concede the gallantry of the German Navy. But the fact remains that the British fleet held its position and the smaller German fleet returned to its base. All will concede that had the German fleet been greatly superior in guns and metal to the British fleet, it probably would have sent that fleet to the bottom before we ever entered the war, and Germany would then have swept British commerce from the seas, and probably have ended the conflict before April 6, 1917. Had the German fleet sunk the British fleet and been upon the ocean when we entered the war, there is every human probability that we never could have landed a single regiment of soldiers upon European soil. Our transports would have been destroyed, and hundreds of thousands of Americans, utterly defenseless, would have found their graves beneath the Atlantic's waves.

The Iowa admiral, Senator Brookhart, tells us that cruisers are of no value in war; but a single German cruiser, the Emden, from August 11 to November 10, 1914, terrorized the ocean, seized ship after ship, alarmed coast cities, and continued her raids until she was sunk by a superior ship, the Australian cruiser Sydney. If the Sydney had not caught her, the Emden would have continued to collect her toll until some other vessel superior in speed and guns could overtake her. A half dozen cruisers at large upon the sea could have destroyed almost the last vestige of British shipping.

The pacifist military experts of the Senate tell us that airplanes can destroy a ship as soon as it is within 200 miles of the shore line. Leaving out of account the doubt as to whether the airplane is really an effective instrument against battleships; leaving out of account night attacks and bombardment of cities; leaving out of account visibility; leaving out of account that airplanes from the shore may be met and destroyed by airplanes launched from the decks of war vessels; leaving out of account improved antiaircraft artillery; disregarding all of these and many other factors, it still remains true that beyond the fanciful limit of 200 miles stretches the vast expanse of the mighty ocean, whose waters must be traveled by ocean craft, all of which would still be at the mercy of war vessels sailing the high seas.

I venture to remind Senators that battles upon the ocean are not always fought within sight of land or at an accommodating distance for airplanes. The nation which is safe only within 200 miles of its shores is already surrounded, pent up, cut off from the world. It can not even wage a defensive war, because defense must always in the end be transformed into attack.

Imagine the humiliation of America if great sea powers were patrolling the ocean 200 miles from our coast and daring us to adventure outside! Such a condition, maintained for any considerable time, would mean defeat, disgrace, and perhaps the annihilation of the Republic.

The military and naval experts of Japan, of Great Britain, of France, of Italy, of Russia, of all maritime countries of the earth, including America, unite in the declaration that cruisers are a necessary part of any great navy. Against them, we have the opinion of a remarkable multiple personality, namely, Rear Admiral Brookhart, Major General Brookhart, Chief of Staff Brookhart, Chief of the Air Service Brookhart, "General Opinion of Mankind" Brookhart, "General Voice of the World" Brookhart, "Custodian of Farmers and Laborers" Brookhart, "Keeper of the Universal Conscience" Brookhart, "Warden of the Wisdom of the Past and Prophet of the State of the Future" Brookhart.

Outside the Senator there are some others. [Here, Senator Brookhart interjected, "The Senator did not, I believe, say 'Mussolini Brookhart.'"]

No. I love the Senator, and I am doing him all the justice I can, and so dealing with him as gently as possible. I mean by what I have said to mildly intimate that the argument made by the Senator yesterday is in the teeth of the opinions of the great military experts of the world, and that he sets up his own judgment against all of them when he tells us what all mankind is thinking. He has a right to do that. It is always the right of any man to have his opinion and to assert it as the judgment of all the world.

Outside the Senate there are some others--the doctrinaires of the Third Internationale, who teach that national spirit should be suppressed and national patriotism forgotten. Likewise, there are pacifists who believe that our best defense is in defenselessness and that safety is found in weakness.

I have listened more than once to that siren song. We heard it before 1914. There were some college professors, anemic--I had almost said white-livered men--who were going over the country declaring that war would never come again. They carried on a crusade and solemnly announced the advent of the millennium. We were negotiating arbitration treaties with all the countries of the world. They were to end all war. We forgot that nations had been writing treaties of eternal peace since they first learned how to put pen to parchment.

Sir, the story of the world is a tale of treaties made and broken. Every civilized nation at every point of history has had treaties of amity with the other civilized nations. Yet the pacifists and conscientious objectors imagined that because Mr. Bryan and some others had negotiated certain treaties providing for arbitration, that that was the end of war. Accordingly, they went about singing that admirable ditty, I Didn't Raise My Boy to Be a Soldier.

Of course, no woman ever raised her boy to be a soldier; but American mothers do not raise their boys to be poltroons and cowards. They do not raise them so that they will stand by and see their mothers abused. They do not raise them to play the poltroon when home and country are assailed by foreign foes.

Suddenly, there came out of the dark a shot that shook the world; and still pacifists proclaimed there was no danger; that no hand should be lifted, that we should make no preparation. We saw our ships sunk upon the sea, we saw the Lusitania go down with her precious freightage. Time and time and time again, we saw Great Britain seize our ships. We saw her sow the North Sea with mines. We submitted to her orders that our ships traverse certain lanes or her mines would send them to the bottom. We beheld our vessels and cargoes taken before the English prize courts and there condemned without justice and without international law.

Then, at last, a condition arose so terrible that we had to act. What, then, was the situation? We had been told that if we got into war, if there was any insult to our country, a million men would leap to arms over night. But we found we could not provide arms for our men when they had leapt to arms.

We had been told that the valor of our men would be sufficient. But when we took the lads from their homes and ordered them to go into camps, there were no camps. We mobilized them without proper clothing, without proper shoes, without adequate equipment of any kind. We drilled them with broomsticks during the precious days and weeks and months when they ought to have been learning to handle rifles. We finally put into their hands old, obsolete weapons. We sent many thousands of them across the sea half equipped. On more than one occasion, they were required to change arms in the face of the enemy and to immediately fight without opportunity to become familiar with the new and strange weapons.

We ordered them into battle without proper artillery support and protection. My recollection is that at the end of the war, when the armistice was signed, there were only 184 American-made field guns on the battle line. The rest of our fighting, so far as field guns were concerned, was done with cannon Pershing borrowed from England and France.

Our lads fought under a rain of fire and shell and gas from the skies without protection of airplanes of our own. Do you know that not a single American-made fighting airplane ever crossed a German trench during the war? We were experimenting. We were fooling around with a motor that has since been discarded as useless. We were spending a billion dollars for airplanes that could not fight or fly. Our soldiers had only such protection as could be given them by English and French flyers, and by our own men fighting in borrowed planes.

What wonder General Pershing cabled in substance that if the equipment he had demanded did not soon come, the American Army would cease to be a fighting force. I can produce the telegram, if anybody wants to see it.

These lads, forced from their homes, their hearts filled with patriotism, stood there in the trenches, or outside the trenches, exposed to fire from the sky without adequate airplane protection. There sleep beneath the poppies of France or here in their own beloved soil, tens of thousands of men whose blood ought to be visited upon the heads of those who would not permit this country to be ready to defend itself.

Mr. President, George Washington may, in the opinion of pacifists, have been an old fool; but his sword carved out of the rock of fate the greatest Nation the world has ever seen. And George Washington said that the best way to prevent war is to be prepared for war.

I remarked a moment ago that this is not the first time I have heard these pacifistic arguments. I heard them before 1914, and I heard them also in 1922. We were to have a naval disarmament conference. We were going to stop building ships. We were told in song and story and sentimental ballad about "Hands Across the Sea." Oh, how they loved us--England and France and Japan. They came here. Their eyes misty with the tears of gratitude for the great service we had done. Their arms were extended to us in brotherly love. We were just going to sit at the table and amicably and unanimously agree to stop making instruments of destruction. But the foreign diplomats brought their military experts with them. Then we sat down at the table, only to learn too late that the military experts and the foreign diplomats had gone around our representatives like a skilled cooper around a barrel, and before our representatives knew it they were headed in without even a spigot to breathe through.

How stood the case? We had laid the keels, and to a large extent had built fighting craft that would have made us the master of the seas. Foreign countries knew they were in no danger from that mastery, but they wanted us to be in such condition that they might be the masters. So we agreed to destroy $600,000,000 worth of the finest fighting craft ever conceived in the brains of engineers. They destroyed just a few. They sunk some old, obsolete ships.

Then we came to examine the treaty which put no limitations upon cruisers. We soon found that it deprived us of the right to fortify our own possessions; that we could not send a ship from America to the Philippine Islands and fight a battle because of the distance, the intermediate points not being fortified. We found out that Japan could take the unfortified Philippine Islands in forty-eight hours, and that if we went there with our ships, we could not refuel and could not get our fleet back home.

We learned that Great Britain had drawn the line within which fortifications could not be erected, so curved as to exclude her contemplated fortifications of the East.

It finally dawned on our dull minds that these nations who pretended that they wanted to stop armaments, to stop building navies; who professed to love us--just love us to death--who talked of hands across the sea and arms around the neck and kisses to the lips, were building cruisers all the time.

To equal the cruisers they have built and are building, we must now spend $750,000,000.

How many times must we learn a lesson? What kind of intellect is it that can say, "There will nevermore be war; there is to be eternal peace; we do not need any arms; we can rely on the doctrine of brotherly love," and at the same time can see that every great nation in the world is building warships, forging cannon, massing soldiers, preparing for some eventuality which we all hope will never occur, but which we all know may come like a thief in the night.

Tell me why the Bermuda Islands are fortified. Tell me why England clings to a range of islands that absolutely command the Panama Canal. Tell me why she rejected with scorn the suggestion that America might want to acquire those islands. From the island of Jamaica in five and one-half hours' time, she can destroy with her airplanes the Panama Canal. If our fleet were divided, part of it in the Atlantic and part of it in the Pacific, and it were necessary to concentrate the fleet, she could close the canal.

Tell me why she has her fortress near the southern end of South America, save that she can from that point attack ships going around the Horn. Tell me why she has her fortresses upon her eastern coast frowning down upon waters that wash the shores of the United States. Tell me why upon the western coast, and at almost the farthest southern extremity of her holdings, she has another great fortress.

I do not say that Great Britain contemplates war upon the United States. I say that British statesmen have sense enough to be prepared for what may happen, and that the American statesman who does not learn a lesson from that fact is not fit to represent the American people.

Mr. President, every military authority, every naval authority tells us we need these vessels. I shall not cast many more votes in this body, but I do not propose that one of my latest votes shall be for the weakness of my country. It shall not be a vote for postponement. We can not create a war navy in a day. It requires four or five years to construct one, to train crews, to man vessels.

I am in favor of making our Navy so strong that it can meet the navy of any nation. And when that has been accomplished, I am in favor of making it so strong that no two countries can successfully attack us. It will cost some money, but the annual interest on the war debt owing to us will more than build and maintain that kind of a navy. If we had possessed such a navy, England would not have insulted us as she did during the early days of the World War, and Germany would not at last have taken the action which we felt compelled us to enter the war.

The world has not changed much. We may talk a great deal, but the old sun swings through the firmament as it did centuries ago. Men and women are much the same as they were back in the twilight of time. Ambition, hope, desire, hate and revenge still play their part in this human life. He is the most derelict of men who does not provide for his own household, and for the defense of his home and native land.

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