As the US/Filipino defense of the islands collapsed in the face of Japanese invasion, that president, Manuel Quezon, convinced General MacArthur that he should declare the Philippines independent and neutral and try to make some arrangement with the Japanese. They sent joint cable to Washington asking the president's permission. Roosevelt was in conference with Army chief of staff General George Marshall and Secretary of War Henry Stimson when it arrived:
When the cable was received in the White House, however, President Roosevelt did not give it a moment's consideration. "We can't do this at all," he told Marshall and Stimson. There could be no separate peace with the Japanese. The president was adamant that Bataan must be defended to the last man, and the Philippines must suffer under occupation until they could be liberated by force. Before that day, Marshall had privately doubted whether the amiable New Dealer in a wheelchair was up to the task of waging a world war, but now he grasped that Roosevelt was capable of utter ruthlessness. "I immediately discarded everything I had held in my mind to his discredit," he said. "I decided he was a great man."
– Ian Toll, Pacific Crucible (2012), pp. 242-243Of course the British had the same experience: to lead the nation against the Nazis required someone with that capacity for "utter ruthlessness," someone with a long record of advocating violent solutions to colonial problems: Winston Churchill. It was not an era when gentleness accomplished much.