The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, Digital Edition > My Day
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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NEW YORK, Tuesday—I spoke yesterday for a short time after lunch with representatives of several non-governmental organizations, which were meeting out at Lake Success. The most searching questions were about the North Atlantic Pact and the desire of the men and women present to have a statement jointly issued by the Congress and the Administration as to their conception of what the pact is really intended to do.

In the evening newspapers Robert Lovett, who while in the State Department launched the pact, was reported as testifying before Congress that under the treaty we were not bound to go to war. Senator Arthur Vandenberg again reiterated that he understood the pact in this way, also.

This seems to be a little confusing to the general public, which feels that our willingness to rearm the democracies of Europe presupposes an acceptance of some kind of military responsibility on our part.

In the last World War, when Europe finally had its back to the wall and a German fuhrer seemed about to cross the English Channel and attack Great Britain by actual invasion, we still took no active military part until Japan attacked us. It is more than probable, however, that in another war we would be the first target. As far as one can see, we are the ones who are always being attacked for desiring war, and it seems to be taken more or less for granted that just as Hitler thought of the Western European countries as a stepping stone to further conquest, so any other would-be world conqueror would move even faster in our direction.

This constant talk of war and whether the Atlantic Pact means that we are pledged to go to war or not, and the counter-argument of Henry Wallace that if we go through with the Atlantic Pact we are certainly courting war, all seem to me very foolish. Nobody is courting war. Everybody, including the Russians themselves, must have, either alone or in combination with others, preparation for war while they wait for the time when the great nations come to an agreement and there can be force within the United Nations in the way it was originally envisioned.

I do think, however, that it would simplify things for people of this country if Congress and the Administration together would make a very clear statement to clear the air. This would include if they considered the pact was to be conceived and executed under the United Nations Charter and, therefore, what was done under it would be reported to the United Nations, or whether it really was something which would be kept outside of the Charter.

That seems to be one of the first things causing confusion. Next to this question comes the one of how far we really are prepared to furnish other nations with the actual security of joining together to fight an aggressor if such an aggressor appears on the horizon.

I have always supposed that the Atlantic Pact arose from the fact that many people felt that Hitler would never have gone to war had he known that there would be an organized and a potentially strong military power against him. This is what the Atlantic Pact was designed for, and there's no reason to believe that it will not serve its purpose in the case of future aggression. In other words, we were looking for a deterrent to the use of force, and we felt the Atlantic Pact could be used in that way.

E. R.


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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, May 4, 1949

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007

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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.