To the Brink
We must be the great arsenal of democracy. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt, Fireside Chat, December 29, 1940
The supreme geopolitical fact of the modern era, Prince Bismarck is alleged to have remarked, is that the Americans speak English. Winston Churchill, with his incessant references to the common ideals and interests of the "English-speaking peoples," exploited that theme shamelessly. On it, indeed, he based his strategy for Britain's survival. But for all the apparent inevitability of Anglo-American cooperation against the Nazi threat, in actual practice the transatlantic partnership was devilishly difficult to forge. Churchill's anxieties and often cunning manipulations, as well as Roosevelt's own hesitations and evasions, his wary deference to the isolationists, and his frequently cagey misrepresentations to the American public, all testified to the abundant difficulties that impeded collaboration between Britain and the United States-not to mention the even more formidable obstacles that blocked full-blown American belligerency.
As 1940 drew toward a close, an especially complicated difficulty arose. With flatfooted lack of ceremony, Lord Lothian, the British ambassador to the United States, announced the problem on November 23, upon his return from a brief trip to London. Alighting from his plane at New York's La Guardia Airport, Lothian declared to the waiting reporters: "Well, boys, Britain's broke. It's your money we want."1
Lothian's statement surely lacked diplomatic subtlety, but it just as____________________