Documents Relating to New Zealand's Participation in the Second World War 1939–45: Volume III
annex — The Marquess of Lothian1 to Viscount Halifax
The Marquess of Lothian1 to Viscount Halifax
Washington, 10 November 1939
Your telegram No. 716.2
There is not, I think, any particularly strong feeling in the United States for Australia and New Zealand, though they are popular as young democracies. The action that would be taken by the United States in the Pacific would be governed in the main by its attitude to Japan and the consequences to America of Japanese expansion in the Pacific. The United States has long made up its mind against interference on the mainland in Asia, but there is widespread popular resentment against Japan's war on China and the brutal manner in which it has been conducted, often at the expense of American missions. Three or four years ago public opinion in the United States supported the evacuation of the Philippines as diminishing their strategic commitments in the Far East and therefore lessening the risk of war. The upsurge of pacifist public opinion during the recent neutrality debates has been fundamentally a determination not to be drawn into another war in Europe, to which last time they sent two million men. But feeling against Japan is quite likely to demand intensification of economic pressure against Japan when the question of a reversal of the recent denunciation of the trade treaty comes before Congress next January, especially as the United States can bring very strong economic pressure against Japan owing to the effect of the war on Japan's trade with the British Commonwealth and Europe; if Japan began to expand outside the China Sea zone, in which her supremacy was recognised by the Washington treaties, I think there would be a powerful movement to stop her. I do not believe that public opinion would now stand aside if the independence of the Philippines were challenged.
If Japanese action left the Philippines alone and concentrated on British possessions and the Dutch Islands, other than Australia and New Zealand, the reaction of American public opinion would be far slower. But partly because the Central Pacific is now regarded as a kind of American reserve, partly because the expansion of Japan overseas would eventually threaten the Monroe Doctrine, and partly because a war with Japan would probably not involve sending abroad vast armies of conscripts, I think that long before Japanese action threatened Australia or New Zealand, America would be at war. This probability is probably enhanced by the fact that the Army and Navy and a great many publicists, though not yet public opinion, recognise clearly that the present form of American security and the Monroe Doctrine is, in the long run, just as dependent upon the British as on the American Navy. If the United States is to rely upon Great Britain to prevent totalitarian Europe from entering the Atlantic through the Straits of Gibraltar and the exits from the North Sea, the United States must themselves underwrite the security of the British Empire in the Pacific because they cannot afford the weakening of Great Britain itself which would follow the collapse of her dominions in the Pacific.
2 Not published.