It would be unfair to dismiss the administration’s latest assault on the U.S.’s defense capability as the folly and cowardice some commentators are already alleging. Without a worldwide rival of comparable strength threatening all American strategic interests, it is certainly possible to retrench gradually and support regional forces of stability and, preferably, moderation.
President Roosevelt saw that if Nazi Germany were permitted to retain its conquests of 1938–40, and to continue to enjoy the satellization of unoccupied France, Italy, Romania, Hungary, Spain, Portugal, and much of the Balkans, it would, in a generation or so, have as large a population and industrial capacity as the United States, especially if it tore away and annexed chunks of the Soviet Union as well. Roosevelt responded with the greatest defense buildup in world history; the extension of U.S. territorial waters in the North Atlantic from three to 1,800 miles; orders to attack German ships on detection; the gift, described as a loan, to Britain and Canada, and later the Soviet Union, of any sinews of war they requested; and the enforced expulsion of any German or Italian influence from the Americas.
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