No. 404 NAI DFA Washington Embassy File xiii

Letter from Robert Brennan to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)

Washington, 23 January 1941

It is difficult to write reports when one knows that it will be weeks before they are read and that the events with which they deal will then have been long out of date.

At the moment of writing it would appear that the Lend-Lease Bill will be passed by the first of March, probably with some amendments. After that it will be a matter for Germany to decide when and if the 'short of war' line has been passed. In other words, the Administration will adopt progressively forward steps in aiding Britain leaving it to Germany to say if and when America is at war.

Restraining factors in the matter of declaring war are not so much whether Britain can hold out as, firstly, whether a possible conflict with Japan could be decided favourably in time to enable the American Fleet to be diverted to the Atlantic and, secondly, the doubt about some South American countries notably the Argentine. It is felt that if Britain fell these countries might want to resume trade with Europe.

There is thus a dilemma. A declaration of war on the part of the U.S. would possibly line-up all the South American countries with similar declarations. But the U.S. would then face a long drawn out struggle in the Pacific with the Japanese Navy refusing to come out and fight and, meanwhile, a possible German success with capture of all or portion of the British Fleet would at once pose a serious problem in the Atlantic. On the other hand if war is not declared and Britain should fall Hemisphere solidarity would be at once threatened by the desire of the South American countries to resume trade with Europe.

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