The Calculated Risk

The Calculated Risk

The Calculated Risk

The Calculated Risk

Excerpt

The First World War brought the United States brusquely into its predestined position as a World Power. We became a World Power in every sense save one: we did not acknowledge the fact. We had made a decisive contribution to the victory of democracy and freedom. But we held to the idea that winning a war is like winning a race. We had not learned, and did not want to learn, that in the history of nations nothing is ever finished and settled, that even the supreme test of victory in war writes not just the last sentence in one chapter of responsibilities but also the first in another. There was risk in accepting these new responsibilities; and so we rejected them, in what to shortsighted men seemed a smart decision. What we did not calculate was the risk of refusing them.

The chapter which we as a nation tried so hard to skip began with the organization of the League of Nations. Its last line consisted of two words: Pearl Harbor. What inexorably followed we read, bloody page by bloody page, in suspense and agony. The end came with the hardwon final victories all over the globe.

Once again the last sentence in one chapter became the first in another. This time, however, the American people looked ahead with different eyes. Whereas in 1919 we had felt that success freed us from responsi-

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