Many Americans view “neutralism” as a new type of social disease. Its probable causes: intimacy in some form with communism; its symptoms: mental confusion and moral dereliction; its cure: unknown. This is a somber diagnosis, filled with implications of doom for the “victims.” But our warnings and protests have been to little avail. Most “neutralists” have deliberately rejected them, and the “disease”—if that be its proper designation—has approached epidemic proportions in many areas. Among the centers of infection, Asia is certainly the region where “neutralism” has shown its most consistent strength and taken its most diverse forms. And however much they may lament it, Americans must recognize the fact that Asian “neutralism” can be neither ignored nor talked out of existence. In our own interests, therefore, we should seek a more complete understanding of this highly complex force—its causes and effects, and possibly its implications for future American policy. Understanding does not necessarily mean acceptance; it does permit a more accurate calculation of alternative risks, and this is the vital element in decision making.
At the outset, the problems of definition and terminology must be raised. It is not easy to define or describe “neutralism” in such manner as to obtain the largest measure of agreement from all parties concerned. Frequently, the word is intended as an epithet, with connotations similar to those suggested in our opening sentences.