Statement by the Secretary of State, August 6, 1940

The strong belief of the representatives of the 21 American nations at the recent Habana Meeting was that the military and other sinister activities on the part of some nations in other large areas of the world present real possibilities of danger to the American republics. It was universally recognized that a threat to airy important part of the Americas means a threat to each and all of the American nations. It was, therefore, agreed that full and adequate preparations for continental defense could not be taken too soon if the threatened danger from abroad was to be checked and terminated. It was also the unanimous view at Habana that the prompt strengthening of unity and solidarity for the purpose of continental defense and for its implementation by concrete programs supported by the 21 nations was indispensable to the safety, security, peace, and welfare of this hemisphere.

There was general agreement that if the peaceful nations of Europe had thus promptly organized themselves for self-defense on the most effective cooperative basis, the chances are that their situation and that of Europe would be vastly different today. Instead, many of those countries complacently relied upon utterances of peaceful purpose and upon their own neutrality to safeguard them against the mighty forces of invasion, conquest, and destruction. Some of them have been overrun and destroyed by the ruthless invader. Their, fate should be a tragic lesson to us.

The vast forces of lawlessness, conquest, and destruction are still moving across the earth like a savage and dangerous animal at large. By their very nature; those forces will not stop unless and until they recognize that there exists unbreakable resistance.

At Habana we forged new instrumentalities of continental defense. These will be of vast importance to our Nation and to every American nation. But there are other and immense tasks still before us.

I would greatly prefer to say that we are safe in this country and in this hemisphere from outside danger. But I am firmly convinced that what is taking place today in many areas of the earth is a relentless attempt to transform the civilized world as we have known it into a world in which lawlessness, violence, and force will reign supreme, as they did a thousand years ago. The people of this country cannot recognize too soon this fact and its overwhelming significance for our national safety and for the maintenance of our national institutions.

The one and only sure way for our Nation to avoid being drawn into serious trouble or actual war by the wild and destructive forces now abroad elsewhere in the world and to command respect for its rights and interests abroad is for our people to become thoroughly conscious of the possibilities of danger, to make up their minds that we must continue to arm, and to arm to such an extent that the forces of conquest and ruin will not dare make an attack on us or on any part of this hemisphere. To this end, each citizen must be ready and willing for real sacrifice of time and of substance and for hard personal service. In the face of terrific problems and conditions, and until the present serious threats and dangers have disappeared, we cannot pursue complacently the course of our customary normal life.

I feel constrained thus to offer my views in the light of what is already a dangerously widespread movement for world conquest and for the destruction of most of the worthwhile things which civilization has given the human race.

Source: U.S., Department of State, Publication 1983, Peace and War: United States Foreign Policy, 1931-1941 (Washington, D.C.: U.S., Government Printing Office, 1943), pp. 563-64

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