HENRY NOEL BRAILSFORD
THE WAR OF STEEL AND GOLD
A STUDY OF THE ARMED PEACE
THE BALANCE OF POWER
A TRAVELLER who journeyed from London to Constantinople would remark in the changing landscape an eloquent variety of expression. No face could pass more obviously from confidence to caution, and from caution to fear than the plains and valleys through which his train would carry him. In the straggling villages, the little groups of isolated cottages and the lonely farm-houses of England and France or the Low Countries, he would read the evidences of an ancient civilisation and a venerable peace. Here violence has departed from men's lives, and whatever wrongs and mischiefs scourge society, the dread of the marauder and the bandit has ceased to vex them. They build with the knowledge that the highways are safe, and even the lonely places secure. In Hungary, and still more in Servia, the change begins that marks the transition to the East. The villages are more compact, the scattered cottages less numerous, the remote farm-houses have a look of newness. Here in quite recent generations the Turk was master, and the confidence which made the populous countryside of Western Europe has been slower in coming. With the crossing of what was yesterday the Turkish frontier, the last phase declares itself. The broad landscapes lie open, tilled but untenanted. Outside the towns and the villages no one has dared to settle. Fear is the master-builder, and it is on the mountain tops or in sheltered glens that he has set villages where men herd together, gregarious and apprehensive. When the first Macedonian peasant builds himself a cottage out of sight of town or village, we shall know that the disappearance of Turkish rule has altered men's lives and changed the face of the country.
Landscapes do not lie. It is by the readiness of a population to build in lonely places and to abandon the security of a village where neighbours form a garrison, that one best may judge the success of a government in preserving internal order and peace. A like test may be applied to the relations of peoples. Seven years ago, Great Britain for the second time in a generation, refused to allow the construction of a Channel Tunnel. Year by year King's speeches may declare in the conventional formula that our relations with other Powers are friendly. At intervals our representatives may attend Peace Conferences, and our King exchange hospitality with all the monarchs of Europe. That refusal to construct the Tunnel revealed a lurking fear stronger and more sincere than all the amiable professions of ententes and ceremonies. There spoke the fundamental instinct of the people of these islands, and it was an instinct as imperious as that which forbids the Turkish peasant to inhabit a lonely farm-house. It proclaimed the dangers of modern Europe; it pronounced war and invasion a possibility to be reckoned among everyday perils, as clearly as the Turkish landscape spells brigandage and the nullity of law. In vain the experts showed how completely the French entrance of this tunnel would be commanded by the guns of our fleet, how easily its exit on our soil might be controlled, how perilous for an invader would be the attempt to use it, how readily it could be closed or flooded at the first approach of tension or danger. Public opinion, official and unofficial, unmistakably announced that it meant to run no risks. Yet a Liberal Government was in power. Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman was attempting to lead Europe in a movement for the reduction of armaments. Nothing could have served his purpose so well as a gesture of confidence, a flinging open of our island gates. The fear which forbade the construction of the tunnel could be explained only on one of two grounds. Either public opinion dreaded that our intimate understanding with France, of all European countries the least aggressive, might in some measurable time give place to an enmity so harsh as to tempt the French to embark on some sudden and perfidious scheme of invasion. Or else it feared that within the same measurable period---the "our time" in which we pray for peace---France might be so utterly crushed by a German conqueror, that the tunnel might be used by him for a descent on our coasts. The wildness of these fears and the remoteness of these risks gave the measure of the insecurity in which this country believes itself to live. The project of the Channel Tunnel is once more under the consideration of the Government. The Liberal party is still in power, building Dreadnoughts and talking peace. Our friendship with France has stood the test of time. Our relations with Germany have become normal and even cordial. But it seems doubtful whether even now the project will be sanctioned, and if sanctioned it should be, the chief reason will be that a fresh terror, due to novel forms of warfare, has in the interval begun to prey upon our minds.(1) Fear vetoed the scheme then; it is just conceivable that a rival fear may advocate it now. A Europe in which such alarms may be seriously entertained by great masses of educated and civilised men is a continent dominated by the nightmare of war, a society in which nation no more trusts nation than man trusts man under a lawless oriental despotism. The refusal to construct a tunnel betrayed our knowledge that we live in an epoch of militarism, as clearly as the Japanese, when they refrain from building stone houses, betray their knowledge that they inhabit an earthquake zone. Here, too, on our frontiers and channels, fear is the master-builder.
Fear is always apt to seem a ridiculous affection. Yet it would be a random judgment which would pronounce this caution merely irrational. Only by the gross stupidity or deliberate treachery of the defenders, or by some inconceivably diabolical cunning of the enemy, could the tunnel be seized and used to our hurt; but in war all these factors must be considered, more especially stupidity. It is only twelve years since France was the enemy, the butt for Mr. Chamberlain's threats, the foe whom the Daily Mail wished to "roll in mud and blood," while Germany was the "friend in need," whom Mr. Chamberlain invited to join us, with the United States, in a Pan-Teutonic alliance. In a world subject to such brusque changes, no friendship is eternal, and nothing permanent save the mutability of national rivalries. Since the century opened, five wars in thirteen years have reminded us how distant is still the dream of an enduring peace. In three of these wars Great Powers were engaged. Our own South African campaign was followed by the Russo-Japanese war, and Italy by making war on Turkey for the possession of Tripoli gave the signal for the two wars of the Balkan Allies against Turkey and each other. Nor is it only by the spectacle and experience of actual war that the sense of insecurity is stimulated. A war that has just been averted leaves behind it its legacies of alarm and revenge. Five times at least during these thirteen years has a war been on the verge of breaking out between European Powers, and in four of these five crises the war, if it had been declared, must have involved more than two Great Powers. Twice the Moroccan question gave occasion for such a crisis---once in 1905 after the Kaiser's visit to Tangier, and again in 1911 after the Agadir incident. Had France been engaged in war with Germany at either of these times, there is no doubt that our Fleet would have supported her. Twice at least have the affairs of the Balkans led to the same risk. A war between Austria and Russia in consequence of the annexation of Bosnia was averted in 1909, after mobilisation had begun, only by the delivery in St. Petersburg of a German warning which resembled an ultimatum. In the autumn of 1912 the Austrian and Russian armies were again partially mobilised, and faced each other across their common frontier. They escaped a war partly because the Austrian plans had been divulged to Russia by a traitor on the Austrian General Staff, and partly because Germany and Great Britain united their efforts to keep the peace. The fifth crisis was more singular and more secret than any of the rest, because it occurred between two nominal allies. There was in the early phases of the Italian war with Turkey, a real danger that the military and clerical party in Austria, with the Heir-Apparent at its head, would force Baron von Aerenthal's hands, and bring about a sudden Austrian invasion of Italy. It is possible in surveying such a record as this of perils averted to draw an optimistic conclusion. Five times in this short period has a military caste or an aggressive interest essayed to make a war between two equal members of the European family. Five times has the effort failed. Some force there has always been, whether the public opinion of the nation concerned, or the pressure of neutral states, which has averted the calamity. It is a pettifogging reading of history which would pretend that it was some precarious intervention, now of the Kaiser or again of Sir Edward Grey, which availed to keep the peace. Individual statesmen in such crises are the servants and voices of the general will. Civilised opinion already regards war as an obsolete barbarism, and in these five crises, albeit indirectly and by means apparently accidental, it has imposed its resolve that war shall cease, at least among the six Great Powers. The Balkan Peninsula is in its moral and economic development some generations behind the rest of Europe, and the Transvaal, Japan and Turkey were all of them outside the charmed circle of European fraternity.
It is possible to admit this conclusion, and yet to doubt whether we are near a period of security or in sight of the end of militarism. The philosophic spectator, impressed by these repeated failures to make war, may draw the conclusion that the obscure and beneficent causes which averted these five wars will always serve to keep the peace in the European homeland. But that is not the conclusion of statesmen. They act indeed on the assumption that a peril averted is only a peril postponed. Consider for a moment the paradoxical spectacle which Europe presented after the rapids of the two Balkan wars had been safely passed. It had been a commonplace among students of international politics that the Balkan question could not be settled, nor the heritage of the Turk divided, without a war among the Great Powers. The thing was done. Macedonia was partitioned, Albania created and the Turks confined to a small corner of their ancient empire, and peace none the less was kept among the Powers. Nay, more, a Concert was created which, in the Albanian question at least, contrived to act, and to act beneficently. In the Conference of London we even seemed to have the nucleus and model of a permanent European Council. It is true, indeed, that the concert failed miserably to avert the second war, and to modify the settlement which followed it. But it had at least availed in a momentous and complicated crisis to keep the peace among the Great Powers. If peace can survive such dangers, we might have concluded, she may survive anything. But while the journalists were all congratulating Sir Edward Grey, the soldiers proceeded to arm. Russia began by greatly increasing the numbers of her army on a peace footing. Through M. Poincaré she then imposed on France a return from two to three years' service for her conscripts. Germany, informed betimes of what Russia was preparing, increased her army before the French project had even been submitted to the Chamber, and thereby rendered its adoption inevitable. Great Britain, if Mr. Churchill has his way, is about to follow with an enormous naval increase. These are the permanent consequences of a crisis which seemed superficially to mark our progress towards peace and international organisation. The more successfully we escape war, the more hotly do we prepare for it. We eliminate a question which for three generations has made perennial anxieties for European statesmen, and the result is only to add to our armies and our fleets. Morocco, Tripoli, Albania, Bosnia, Macedonia, Persia---all these outstanding questions diplomacy has settled in the past seven years. It grows every year harder to guess what there is left to quarrel about. First with France, then with Russia, and at last even with Germany, we have closed our accounts and settled our differences. And still our armaments increase. It seems to be more costly to settle our quarrels to-day, than it used to be to nurse them. With nothing left to fight about, our chief concern is that we may have something to fight with.
Too often a show and form of peace has been preserved only because one party to the quarrel was acutely aware of its unpreparedness for war. There lies the seed of strife in these recent harvests of peace. When France yielded in the former of the two Moroccan crises (1905), dismissed M. Delcassé, called the conciliatory M. Rouvier to power, and consented with an ill-grace to the summoning of a European Conference, it was not because public opinion demanded peace, but rather because the emergency found her with her army unready, and her magazines empty. When Russia in March, 1909, much against her inclination and apparently against the tendency of her public opinion, counselled her protégés, the Servians, to return a soft answer to the hectoring of Austria, her Minister of War defended this unpopular course in the Duma on the ground that the army over which he presided was disorganised and unprepared. It is not the will to keep the peace which staves off war from crisis to crisis, but a sense of the overwhelming risks of battle. The play of alliances has powerfully reinforced the argument from prudence. Germany, by standing behind Austria, imposed peace on Russia. Great Britain, in Mr. Lloyd George's Mansion House speech (1911), warned Germany in effect that her fleet and probably a portion of her army stood behind France.
There is in these expedients for averting war neither finality nor security. A Power which has been forced by the deficiency of its own armaments to accept a diplomatic reverse, at once sets to work to beggar itself in the effort to recover its lost prestige. Nor does it always happen that a Power is able to gauge, before the decisive moment, either its own weakness or its enemy's strength. Nicholas II no more foresaw Tsushima than Louis Napoleon foresaw Sedan. A moment of national vanity, a passing caprice in which fashion amuses itself by despising the enemy, as the Russians despised the Japanese and our own Imperialists derided the Boers, suffices to make a war. Modern warfare has indeed long since entered on the phase of scientific prevision and calculation. Potential adversaries can keep few secrets from each other. Every admiralty can tell what weight of shot and shell every ship in the enemy's fleet can hurl upon its own vessels. Every naval and military budget is printed and published, and studied as carefully by the enemy's experts as by the Parliament at home. It is known approximately within how many days each Power can fling a given number of army corps across its frontier. The more elaborate the organisation, the more superfluous is an actual trial of strength. For the old recurrent wars of flesh and blood there has been substituted a continuous war of steel and gold. It never pauses even in time of peace. Behind every acute diplomatic discussion there goes on a calculation with maps and balance sheets and statistics. The incessant competition knows no term or relaxation as to which Power can mass the larger number of recruits under the colours, provide for their rapid movements by the most efficient transport, outrange the enemy's field-guns, or outbuild the enemy's fleet. The computing of these elements tends to replace actual warfare. The old world fought; the modern world counts. But there are always unknown factors in the problem. Where is the expert who does not cherish some fond illusion about the superiority of a gun, a rifle or a type of ship? Who shall balance against some material disadvantage the moral factors which may outweigh it---the superiority of officers and men in intelligence, in education, in patriotism and in endurance, or the genius of a commander? If the issue of a war could always be foreseen, there would never be a war, but the miscalculations first of the Turks and then of the Bulgarians forbid us to suppose that modern military science is much nearer than the old haphazard practice to that accuracy in preliminary calculation which might abolish war. In the last resort, a slightly inferior Power may hope, by a sudden attack without a formal declaration of war, to gain a preliminary advantage which will balance some deficiency in numbers or armaments.
Alliances give no security that the stable equilibrium will be maintained, and the armed peace kept. "Treaties," as Lord Salisbury once put it, "are mortal." Alliances may be renewed from term to term, but seals and signatures are no guarantee that their provisions will be faithfully observed. Calculations of self-interest inspired them; the same order of motives may make it inexpedient to fulfil the bargain. Bismarck set the fashion in this international opportunism. An alliance concluded by him with Austria against the possibility of French or Russian aggression, in no way prevented him from concluding with Russia a secret treaty of "reinsurance," by which he pledged himself to benevolent neutrality if Russia should be attacked by his ally Austria. Europe has been divided for a decade into two armed camps governed by alliances and understandings. In all European questions Britain, France and Russia on the one hand, Germany, Austria and Italy on the other, act as two groups of partisans pledged to give one another support up to a certain point. But the degree of intimacy and the amount of support vary from time to time within each group, and vacillate from crisis to crisis. It was only a moral support which Britain and France gave to Russia in the Bosnian affair, while Germany was ready to back Austria with arms. Britain stood behind France with her fleet in the Moroccan entanglement, but the attitude of Russia was often doubtful. There is usually less doubt about the ties which bind France to Russia and Germany to Austria, than about the mutual relations of the other Powers. Yet at the opening of the Bosnian crisis the Temps, which at that period was still the usual organ of the French Foreign Office, suggested that France would do well not to follow Russia and Great Britain too closely in their anti-Austrian policy, since a time might come when a renewal of the Moroccan crisis might make it expedient for France to have in Austria a grateful friend. The position of two of the Great Powers in these groups is normally equivocal.
While the influence of King Edward was at its height, Germans complained that Italy had been "debauched" from the Triple Alliance, and the French reckoned until quite lately on Italian neutrality in a Franco-German conflict. For some years before the advent of M. Poincaré to power in France, there were signs that her alliance with Russia was becoming loose and nearly obsolete. The Temps complained that it was no longer put in action (pratiqué), and it was claimed as the chief glory of M. Poincaré that he had restored it by his visit to St. Petersburg and the conclusion of a naval convention. While Anglo-German rivalry was at its height, Russia seemed to step outside the Triple Entente and concluded with Germany at the Potsdam meeting a separate bargain in regard to Turkish affairs, which entirely ignored the interests of her ally and her friend. Russia indeed seems to trade upon her notorious untrustworthiness as an ally. When she joins a combination, her friends must continually load her with favours in order that she may remain in it, while from its rivals she receives concessions that she may desert it. Her faithlessness is an inexhaustible asset. She is always in a position to make terms, and gathers from each side by turn a "refresher" or a bribe.
The adoption of the group system in Europe has, in short, brought diplomatists no nearer to the ideal of stability. It has changed the conditions of their problem, but they are still bound at every turn of the wheel to bargain for support and buy off opposition. Loyalty is a matter of expediency and shifting calculation. Usually it pays to support an ally and keep a bargain---if it were not so, there would be no bargains---but there is always a chance that any given crisis may bring the occasion for a weakening of the recognised ties, and a readjustment of the balance of power. Faced by an adverse combination, a restless Power at once sets to work to buy off one or more of its opponents, to take out a policy of "re-insurance," and to break through the diplomatic hedge which pens it in. Europe is in perpetual flux, and peace is preserved only by a constant readjustment of the strains and tensions which hold it together. Alliances, like armaments, are rather symptoms of a universal insecurity, than the means of building up a permanent peace. The group system stands condemned by its practice. The Budgets of all the Powers which are embraced in it betray their fears. The continual increase of armaments since the formation of the Triple Entente is the sufficient proof that it has done nothing for European security. Union ought to make strength. But in practice every alliance tends to stimulate each ally to the maximum of those preparations which are always supposed to be defensive. Each group aims at a preponderance in Europe, and each ally uses his influence to force his colleagues into costly sacrifices. Russian influence induced France to return to the Three Years' Service System. French influence is among ourselves a force making for conscription, and from time to time the Temps informs us that if ever we are to enjoy the full status of an ally of France, we must make ourselves valuable to her by creating a national army. Italy, seeking security in the Triple Alliance, presently found that she was expected to load her population with taxes in order to maintain the status of a first-class military Power. Our own experience at the moment teaches us how strangely a quasi-alliance may operate to increase armaments. Because we belong to the Triple Entente it is argued that we must build ships not merely against Germany, but against Germany's allies, Italy and Austria. But in reckoning our forces,. the experts will never allow us to add the navies of France and Russia to our own. An alliance seems always to bring new commitments and dangers with it, but never to diminish perils or to enable its members to lessen their preparations for defence.
Ten years ago if we had invited statesmen and experts to define the tasks of the British army, they would have answered unanimously that we are obliged to maintain a large and costly land force primarily because we hold India and must prepare for its defence. By two treaties during this period our military position in India has been transformed. We have first of all concluded an alliance with Japan by which she is pledged, should India be invaded, to support us with an army of 300,000 men. Meanwhile with Russia, the only Power which could invade India, we have entered on an understanding by which she has become a quasi-ally. India has been insured and re-insured. We have made a friend of our only rival, and an ally of the most formidable military Power of the New East. But our army is no smaller for this favourable change in our position. The risks against which it insures us have been twice removed, yet we are unable to disband a regiment or dispense with a battery. The military budgets of India have indeed actually increased since these two treaties made it morally impossible that an army should ever in our time be called upon to defend it against a foreign invader. The army is not diminished, partly because no one wholly trusts the Russian friend or the Japanese ally, but chiefly because our entry into the Continental system of alliances has imposed upon it a new military task. Its primary function is no longer to defend India, but to furnish an expeditionary corps for service in Europe. Alliances and understandings have had here also their normal results. Not for our own sakes, but to serve our friends and maintain the balance of power, we have been obliged to provide our Continental policy with a Continental arm. We require an army which can operate in Europe precisely as we did in the days of Marlborough and Wellington. The more deeply we commit ourselves to the policy of the balance, the more rapidly shall we be driven to the adoption of conscription. We are driven, by the very means which seem to conjure peril and make for safety, into a redoubling of precautions which betray our growing fears. Nowhere in Europe is this process of arming easy or uneventful. Everywhere it involves unpopular taxation, shaken credit, Cabinet crises, Parliamentary conflicts. A wanton enemy, a joyful aggressor, a primitive earth-shaking Imperialism there nowhere is in Europe to-day. Morally warfare is obsolete, and it is with conscious shame and unconcealed reluctance that statesmen and Parliaments face the assumed necessity of interrupting the industrial business of a modern State to provide for the constant possibility of war, on a scale which the barbarism of the Middle Ages at their darkest never rendered necessary. Ours is a mediaevalism without its chivalry, stripped of the pride in arms and the delight in conflict which gave even to feudalism au ideal and not ignoble side. It is fear which goads Europe to-day into the extravagance of panic armaments. But the fear which causes the European Powers to form alliances and pile up armaments is not the simple feat of a nation which dreads aggression and invasion. It may so figure in the minds of the simple citizens who flocked to see "An Englishman's Home," and imagined that the Germans were already at our gates. It may so figure in the mind of the French peasant who remembers that the Prussians once occupied his farm, and forgets the dynastic ambitions of his rulers which provoked this invasion. In the minds of the governing caste it is rather a superb fear, an Imperial fear, a fear lest in the future some stronger Power may menace their acquisitions, recent or prospective, in various corners of the globe. There are nations, of which little Switzerland is the chief, which live secure, with no army save a militia, amid the rival camps of Europe. "To do justly and love mercy and walk humbly with thy God," is a rule of life which still preserves rare nations from the general fear. But these are the nations which covet nothing beyond their own borders.
To the humane onlooker who conceives the public life of nations as an effort, however slow and ill-directed, to realise the ideal of a co-operative commonwealth, the procedure of diplomacy and the growth of armaments is apt to seem a riot of waste and unreason. Yet it is at the worst a highly intelligent folly, which has its guiding thoughts, its principles of action, and above all, its economic motives. Let us attempt to study it a little more closely. Seen from a British standpoint the process has been influenced by three or four new departures which are in reality phases of a single policy---the conclusion of the French Entente Cordiale in 1904, the launching of the Dreadnought in 1906, the conclusion of the Russian agreement in the next year, and perhaps we should add the adaptation of the army by Lord Haldane to suit the new conception of its task as an auxiliary Continental force. "We ordinary mortals," said Lord Rosebery recently, "are not admitted behind the scenes . . . but one thing we do know about our foreign policy : for good or for evil we are embraced in the midst of the Continental system." The days of our "splendid isolation---are over. We have become in the full sense of the word a European Power closely involved with two partners in the rivalries of the Continent. The change in our position was probably inevitable, and it is likely to be permanent. Disastrous as some of its consequences have been, there are few who would wish to revive the conceptions of foreign policy which were taught by the "Manchester School." To make an ideal of "splendid isolation" would be to renounce our duties in the common life of nations, to check our sympathies, to deny the sense of solidarity which links us with identical interests and fellow-feelings to peoples beyond our shores. It is better to go forward, however ill-guided the advance may be, as a European nation aware of its share in the common burdens, the common errors, and the social duties of peoples which profess a common civilisation, than to relapse into the insularity and egoism of a narrow isolation.
To welcome our entry into the Continental system, is not to accept the fundamental principle which has guided us. We have followed for nearly a decade a policy defined as the preservation in Europe of "a balance of power." It is a familiar idea, and the words recall some of the most cherished memories in our history. But like all traditional phrases it illustrates the danger of adapting to modern conditions a notion which bore for our ancestors a meaning which we cannot give it to-day. It arrests thinking, confuses emotion, and covers with its venerable mantle a policy which is in reality entirely new. "To maintain a balance of power in Europe" is the motive which inspired us to erect the Triple Entente as a barrier against the Triple Alliance, led us into a conscious and habitual rivalry with Germany, made us the ally of France in a quarrel not our own, and set us, after the Manchurian campaign, to restore Russia by financial aid and diplomatic backing to her place among the Great Powers. All metaphors mislead, and this metaphor is peculiarly fallacious. One may doubt whether any statesman in his own inner mind ever desired a balance, if the word means what it conveys---an exact equipoise in force and influence among the Powers of Europe. What every statesman desires is that the scales of power shall be more heavily weighted on his own side. He begins to talk of a balance when the scales descend on the other side. He piles a weight on his own side or snatches a weight from the other, but he never stops at the crucial moment when the scales are even. The balance is a metaphor of venerable hypocrisy which serves only to disguise the perennial struggle for power and predominance, When a statesman talks of a balance, he means a balance favourable to himself. Equipoise between two rival groups, if ever it could be attained, would mean a condition intolerable to the normal human mind. It would mean stagnation and stalemate, the throttling and handcuffing, not of one nation, but of all. It is for liberty of movement, for opportunity to carry out their national purposes that all Powers strive. In a Concert that liberty is sought through the amicable adjustment of interests round a Council-Board, and just in so far as Powers form permanent groups which support each other in issue after issue on the principle of "my ally right or wrong" does any Concert governed by the disinterested opinion of neutrals become impossible. Without a Concert the group system means that all negotiation, even when it is outwardly courteous, is carried on with the knowledge that arguments are weighed by the number of army corps and guns and ships which each combination can muster. The evil reaches its climax when all the Great Powers are regimented, as they are to-day, in one group or the other, and none of them is free, without some measure of disloyalty to partners, to approach any question with an open mind or to consider any aspect of it save its reaction upon the interests of these partners.
A Balance of Power is not a self-sufficing ideal. Power is sought for certain ends, and that is true whether it is at an equality or at a preponderance of power that one aims. It is here that the real difference emerges between the contemporary struggle to maintain a sort of balance in Europe and the epic wars of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. When our ancestors talked of redressing the balance, and formed coalitions, subsidised allies and landed armies on the Continent, they had something to fear. They were fighting for hearths and homes. They knew that their own liberties, political and religious, were at issue, and if the struggle imposed on them inordinate burdens, the stake was worth the sacrifice. In the former of the two periods dominated by the notion of a balance, Louis XIV had made himself the arbiter of Europe. He gave a king to Spain, a mistress and a pension to Charles II., stood behind a Catholic restoration under his successor, and menaced the Netherlands and the Rhine with unceasing and devastating warfare. When William of Orange taught our ancestors to think in terms of the balance of power, it was because our shores were threatened with an invasion which would have brought back a despotic king. His strategy was a league of the weaker Powers against a nation whose cohesion and superiority in culture and wealth overtopped the liberty of Western Europe. No less elementary, no less monstrous, were the perils which caused Pitt to revive the theory of the balance against Napoleon. Frontiers had become fluid under the tread of his armies, and his will moulded national institutions and made and unmade kings. In both periods the things that were weighed in the balance were the home territories and the domestic liberties of the peoples which sought to adjust it. The stake was their national existence, the fields and the cities which were their home. Our fathers under William of Orange and Pitt did not aspire to a balance as a thing good and necessary in itself, or as a condition of the normal life of European societies. They meant by the balance such a checking of the excessive power of France as would save Devonshire from her fleets, the Palatinate from her armies, their thrones from her nominees and their Parliaments from her dictation. The balance, in short, was the condition of national self-government.
We must free ourselves from the obsession of this phrase, if we would judge contemporary diplomacy clearly. There is no analogy, there is not even a plausible parallel between our own case and that of our forefathers who coined the phrase. To pursue a balance for its own sake is not an axiom of British policy. What is axiomatic is rather that we must adopt any policy necessary to the preservation of our national liberties. The balance was always a means to that end; it was never an end in itself. We shall not reason honestly about the modem problems of diplomacy, until we have first of all recognised that the dangers which forced our ancestors into European coalitions and Continental wars have gone never to return. We need not argue that human character is absolutely better than it was in earlier centuries, nor even that the predatory instincts of mankind have grown appreciably weaker. Human character, for that matter, is not a fixed or self-subsistent thing; it is the habit which human beings acquire of adjusting themselves to their environment. The environment changes and the character with it. What mainly differentiates our century from those which went before it is that the forms of wealth have changed. Wealth in the days of the wars for a balance of power meant primarily land. Wealth in our day is primarily the opportunity for peculiarly profitable investment. This economic evolution has modified most of our social institutions, and with them our diplomacy. Conquest in the old sense of the world has become obsolete. A predatory Power does not go out with drums and banners to seize estates for its feudal aristocracy. It applies pressure, and pressure which often involves the possession of fleets and armies, to secure concessions for its financiers. There is no advance in morality here, no conscious progress towards a Golden Age. The change cannot be described in phrases from Isaiah or in verses from Vergil. It is a non-moral development, but it has none the less a direct bearing upon our hopes of peace. The instinct to conquer is as sharp and insatiable as ever, but it has found a means of conquering beyond frontiers. Our modern conquistadores do not burn their ships when they alight on coveted soil, as though to anchor themselves for ever on its fertile acres. Our bankers will not do in China what Cortes and Pizarro did in the New World. They build a railway or sink a mine. Our Ahabs do not take Naboth's vineyard; they invest money in it. The struggle for a balance of power means to-day a struggle for liberty. and opportunity to use "places in the sun" across the seas. For the modern world a place in the sun is not a smiling valley, or a rich plain in which a victorious army will settle, and build homes and found families. It is a territory to "exploit," and the active agents in the process are now the bankers and investors who float loans, and secure concessions. Even where conquest is incidentally necessary, as in Morocco, there is no migration to the new territory and the conquering Power rarely troubles to annex it It "occupies" it, only because without occupation it cannot safely employ its capital in building railways or sinking mines. Land-hunger is not the malady of the modern world. In all this we shall not discover the faintest resemblance to the perils and ambitions which roused the passions and stimulated the sacrifices of the earlier struggles for a balance of power.
What at the worst would have happened, if no Triple Entente had been formed, or if it had been broken by clever diplomacy or internal strain? What use over a long period of years would the Powers of the Triple Alliance have made of their predominance? Germany would no doubt have continued her peaceful "penetration" of Turkey. The Bagdad Railway would have been from terminus to terminus an all-German line, and the German banker and the German mining engineer would have followed its course, conferring some incidental benefits on the Turkish population and earning large dividends for Hamburg and Berlin. British trade would have shared in the increased demand for goods, but German political influence at the Porte would in the main have excluded our financiers from the large profits to be derived from concessions and monopolies. The French occupation of Morocco would probably not have been feasible, or if it had happened, would have formed a part of some comprehensive arrangement between France and Germany. The country might have been divided between them, or Germany might have been contented with economic facilities, if French capital had been put at her disposal for her industrial and colonial enterprises. It is not so much Morocco which the Germans have coveted, as the excellent iron ore which its mountains contain. Nor does France possess anything which Germany desires, save those endless stores of capital which French banks in concert with French diplomacy direct abroad to Russia, to Turkey, to South America---to every corner of the earth save Germany. By cajolery or by bullying or by that peculiarly German combination of both, German diplomacy, if no Triple Entente had existed, would somehow have found its way to the Moroccan mines and the Paris Bourse. What else would have happened? Italy would doubtless have taken Tripoli, and with it perhaps some Turkish islands; she might even have won some footing, half political, half economic in the Cilician region of Asiatic Turkey. Persia, if we had entered into no close association with Russia, would have continued to profit by Anglo-Russian jealousies, to maintain the reality of her independence, and might with a free Parliament and the aid of such foreigners as Mr. Shuster have advanced far towards a national renaissance. In the Balkans it is likely enough that Austria, backed by the preponderant influence of the Triple Alliance, would have availed herself of one of the several crises which have followed the young Turkish revolution, to force her way to Salonica and to annex a part at least of Macedonia. For my part, I do not doubt that the Bulgarian population which she would have acquired would have been happier under her rule than it is now, or is ever likely to be under the Servians and Greeks. These are some of the consequences which might have happened if no one had troubled to unite Britain, France and Russia in a league to maintain a balance of power against Germany and her allies. The most probable consequence of all, however, would have been the dissolution or at least the weakening of the Triple Alliance itself. Alliances are held together more securely by the forces which press against them, than by any internal cohesion.
It would be difficult to suggest any consequences more startling or sinister than these. Europe had a long experience of German "hegemony" during the quarter of a century which elapsed between the fall of the French Empire and the creation of the Franco-Russian Alliance. Nothing disastrous happened. No little states were over-run, no neighbour's landmarks removed, no thrones overturned, no national or religious liberties menaced. Not even if the Kaiser wielded a military power as great as that of Louis XIV, can we conceive him acting as the Grand Monarch acted. High politics are no more moral than they were, but predatory appetites have assumed a new form, and nations have acquired with Parliamentary government a cohesion and a personality which protects them more effectively than guarded frontiers and crowded barracks. In Europe the epoch of conquest is over, and save in the Balkans and perhaps on the fringes of the Austrian and Russian Empires, it is as certain as anything in politics can be, that the frontiers of our modern national states are finally drawn. If war should break out, it will be for some stake in the Near East or in China, and it will end without territorial changes in Europe---a geographical term from which the Balkans must always be excluded. The present territorial arrangement of Europe follows with few exceptions the lines of nationality. Even where it departs from them, trade and finance have united the conquered area so closely to the conqueror, that it would now reject independence as a free gift. That is certainly true of Russian Poland, which demands autonomy, but would regard separation as an economic disaster. It is probably true even of Alsace-Lorraine, which for all its hatred of Prussian bureaucratic rule and its preference for French culture, has entered irrevocably into the German network of commerce and finance.(2) If we are to continue in the twentieth century to inflate our patriotic rhetoric with sounding phrases about the balance of power, let us be clear at least about its modern meaning. No one will impose on us a Catholic king, or remodel our institutions to fit the iron law of the Code Napoleon. Shall the Germans dig for iron ore on the slopes of the Atlas, and carry it in the form of steel rails to Bagdad? That is the typical question of modern diplomacy, and sanely regarded, it is a good deal more important than the typical question of the old world, whether the King of Spain should be a Bourbon or a Hapsburg. To settle this question, and similar questions which belong to the same order, the young men of Europe are drilled, the battleships are built and the taxes squandered. Nothing is at stake which can affect the fortunes or ownership of a single acre of European soil. Nothing would be changed in the politics or religion or public life of any European state if these questions were settled otherwise or were not settled at all. When men were kidnapped by the press-gang in the streets of Plymouth to fight Napoleon, they had at least this consolation, that something which they valued as Englishmen would have been lost or jeopardised, if Napoleon had won. But who in England would have cared if the iron-ore of Morocco had gone to cast German cannon at Essen, instead of French cannon at Creusot? There is no human reality in this modern struggle for the balance of power, no worthy end, no splendid purpose. There is nothing real about it, unless it be the taxes levied to maintain it.
"But do you," the reader may ask with indignation and surprise, "do you really dismiss the tremendous Anglo-German rivalry of recent years, with all it., war scares and its Dreadnoughts, as a dispute which turned on nothing larger than the mines of Morocco and the railways of Mesopotamia? This is to trifle with patriotism and ignore national ambitions." The normal human mind experiences a certain revulsion at such an analysis. All the abstract words, all the sounding phrases of politics have hurtled about our ears during these years, and we do not like to be told that the whole confusion was caused by a matter of iron ore and steel rails. There are two ways of testing such a diagnosis as this, and we will apply them both. How did the dispute originate, and how was it finally settled? The Entente Cordiale between Britain and France, which marked the beginning of the tension with Germany, was based, so far as the world knows, upon a single document, which was nothing but a businesslike adjustment of French and British interests in Egypt and Morocco. The French agreed to recognise our tenure of power in Egypt, and we in return admitted their predominant interest in Morocco. A secret clause, of which the Germans seem to have had knowledge about a year after it was drafted, went on to bind us to give diplomatic support to France, if circumstances should render it expedient for her to occupy Morocco, and in that event the interests of Spain were safeguarded in any future partition. Amid all the angers and contentions of recent years there was never any concrete issue of the first rank between Britain and Germany, save this Moroccan question, and it was a question which concerned the French more nearly than ourselves. The German thesis was perfectly simple, and in principle defensible. It was that France and Britain had no right by an exclusive bargain to settle the fate of Morocco without consulting other Powers. The answer of the French and British press was more plausible than convincing. It was our case that as what we call the "trade" of Morocco is mainly in French and British hands, Germany was not in any real sense an interested party. The "trade " of Morocco, if by that word is meant the exchange of European manufactured goods against the raw produce of its agriculture, is at the best inconsiderable. No one would risk the lives of soldiers and the money of taxpayers for the sake of the Moroccan market. What matters in Morocco is the wealth of its virgin mines. This was an open field, and here Germans had as good or as bad a claim as any one else. A German firm, the Mannesmann Brothers, could indeed boast that it had obtained an exclusive concession to work all the mines of Morocco in return for money which it had lent to an embarrassed Sultan during its civil wars. That this was the real issue is proved by the terms which were more than once discussed between Paris and Berlin for the settlement of the dispute. A "détente," or provisional settlement of the dispute was concluded in 1910, which had only one clause---that German finance should share with French finance in the various undertakings and companies which aimed at "opening up" Morocco by ports, railways, mines, and other public works. No effect was ever given to this undertaking, and German irritation at the delays of French diplomacy and French finance culminated in the dispatch of the gunboat Panther to Agadir as a prelude to further "conversations." Had M. Caillaux remained in power, we know from the subsequent investigations before the Senate's Committee, how those conversations would have ended. He would have effected not merely an adjustment of French and German colonial interests, but a general understanding which would have covered the whole field of Franco-German relations. The points on which he had begun to negotiate were all economic, and chief among them was a proposal to put an end to the boycott by French finance of the Bagdad railway, and to admit German securities to quotation on the Paris Exchange. The alarm which this bold step by M. Caillaux caused both to French patriots and to British Imperialists is not yet forgotten, and its echo was heard both in London and Paris, when, towards the close of 1913, M. Caillaux returned to office. In those informal negotiations he had made the beginnings of a readjustment in Franco-German relations which would have transformed not merely French but European politics, if he had been Premier for a few months longer. French patriots took alarm and feared that he was about to rob them of their dream of a revenge for 1870. British Imperialists in our Conservative press assailed him from a fear that if France composed her quarrel with Germany, this country would be left isolated. In a single sentence in the debate (27 November, 1911) which followed this Agadir crisis, Sir Edward Grey used a phrase which showed that our diplomacy had shared the fears of our Conservative press. There was a risk, as he put it, that France might be drawn into the orbit of German diplomacy. It was for that reason, and not because it really concerned us how much or how little compensation France paid to Germany in the Congo for her seizure of Morocco, that we were ready to back the less conciliatory diplomacy of M. Caillaux's successors, if need be, by force of arms. This was, perhaps, the most instructive incident in the recent history of European diplomacy. We need not pause to discuss the parts which the various actors played in it. What concerns us in this argument is the proof which it afforded that in the judgment of those who knew the facts, this feud between France and Germany, which for more than a generation has seemed to be a permanent factor in European politics, deeply seated in sentiment and entrenched behind powerful interests, might be ended by an economic arrangement. That clearly was the view both of those who desired and those who feared a reconciliation. Assuming that the Germans were wise enough at the same time to grant full self-government to Alsace-Lorraine, this view is probably sound. It means, if we accept it, that the importance of economic motives as the real spring of all the conflicts which centre in the balance of power could hardly be over-stated. The whole development of Anglo-German relations, since the Moroccan conflict ended in a compromise, has tended to confirm this opinion. Both Powers, after the crisis of September, 1911 had confronted them sharply with the real risk of war, acted with a new sobriety and cast about for the means of composing their differences. Lord Haldane made his famous visit to Berlin, and Baron Marschall von Bieberstein was sent to London. A comprehensive series of negotiations was opened, and some brief account of it has been given by the German Chancellor to the Reichstag. It turned on two sets of questions---economic issues in Turkey which centre in the Bagdad Railway, and colonial issues which apparently concern future projects of expansion in tropical Africa. These negotiations were nearly completed when the Chancellor last spoke of them, and he implied that they had already sufficed to make Anglo-German relations cordial and intimate. Once more it appears that the questions which divide rival Powers, and mobilise them in hostile camps against each other, turn on no European controversies, and affect no question of honour, liberty or nationality that touches our own homes. They are all incidents in the effort of modern finance to find openings in distant regions, to lay its rails in Mesopotamia or to exploit the tropical produce of Angola.
A doctor who explains the madness and death of a man by a clot of blood in his brain, must seem to a simple spectator to be assigning a ridiculously inadequate cause for a tremendous effect. A student who traces all the armaments and angers and heroics of our seven years' struggle over the balance of power, to the fact that German industry looks forward to the early exhaustion of its native supplies of iron-ore, and hoped to replace them by obtaining access to the mines of Morocco, may also seem to be trifling. Was there really nothing else in all this crisis? Of course there was. There was the anger. When the plain man sees the Dreadnoughts rising on the stocks, and listens to the gossip about crises and military preparations, his common-sense is offended when he is told that the trouble is about nothing more serious than a few mines and railways and bankers' ventures. The plain man is right. The potent pressure of economic expansion is the motive force in an international struggle; for a people like the Germans which has bent all its brains, and will bend them for a generation to the task of industrial organisation, mines and railways in the half-exploited regions of the earth are not a trivial matter. But the starting-point in such a rivalry is soon forgotten. Danger begins when a nation generalises, and declares that it is being "penned in," and threatened by a policy of "encirclement." The difficulty between Britain and Germany was not so much Bagdad or even Morocco, as the general sense that a powerful diplomatic combination and a naval preponderance were being used to frustrate German purposes and to exclude her from "places in the sun." The moment that suspicion dawns, the origins of the rivalry are forgotten. It becomes a general engagement, and all the channels of human folly pour into it their reserves. The military instinct, with all the interests behind it, is aroused, and on its side fights the healthy national will not to be worsted in a trial of endurance. Subtler but not less potent is the scientific chauvinism peculiar to the German mind---the mood of self-complacency which dwells on German efficiency as opposed to British "slackness," our obsolete methods of education, the abundant leisures and pleasures of our propertied class, and all the phenomena which suggest a crew resting on its oars and inviting a more strenuous people to pass it in the race.
It would be futile to attempt to dissect the froth of popular emotion, but there is little difficulty in explaining why secondary disputes like these of Morocco and Bagdad expanded into a world-shaking conflict. It was an offence that we should have joined the French in settling the fate of Morocco by a one-sided arrangement. Germany had been ignored, and the Kaiser quite naturally retorted that Germany must aim at becoming "so strong that nothing could happen in the world about which she was not consulted." The sequel suggested to German minds that the offence was deliberate, that we meant to erect it into a system. The Anglo-French Entente grew into the Triple Entente, and the Triple Entente presently seemed to be rallying minor partners to itself. First we excluded Germany from Morocco, and then we constructed a general league which hemmed her in on all sides. We "debauched" her ally, Italy, we brought Spain within our "orbit," gave British queens to Spain and Norway, and for a brief moment robbed Germany of her old influence in Turkey. The "balance of power" had been violently adjusted in our favour, and Germany, in Prince von Bülow's phrase, felt herself "penned in," and imagined that it was the purpose of the Triple Entente to confront her everywhere, to check her movements in every sea, and to shut her out from all "the places in the sun." The struggle which followed was really a colossal effort on her part to break down the "pen." She threatened France and Russia in turns, and against us she began to build a navy, which, though it could not hope to equal ours, might at least be strong enough to cause us to pause before we attacked her. It can hardly be doubted that for some years at least, the Triple Entente was really inspired by the aims which German alarm ascribed to it. Its real architects were M. Delcassé and King Edward, and the former at least made no secret of his ambitions. The ablest defence of his work is to be found in the brilliant pages of his friend, M. Victor Bérard. He illustrates his idea by a striking metaphor. When the iconoclasts of the Reformation were minded to destroy a Gothic cathedral, they did not trouble to storm in upon it with mallet and crowbar. They simply cut the flying buttresses which supported from outside all the gallant tracery of its walls and the massive strength of its towers. When that was done the cathedral crumbled into ruins. The German Empire was that Gothic cathedral. Its buttresses were the Austrian and Italian alliances, its more than neighbourly relations with Russia, its predominance over Turkey, and its power of bringing other lesser states like Roumania within the circuit of its influence. M. Delcassé set to work with equal boldness and skill to realise this masterly thought, and accident favoured him when Lord Salisbury, who had always been a friend of Germany, retired from office, and King Edward, who had always been a friend of France, came to the throne. For some years Germany was very nearly isolated, and the Austrian alliance was the only "flying buttress" which did not shake for a moment beneath the hammers of the iconoclasts. The cathedral in the end turned out to be more solid than it had seemed at the first assault, and experience cooled the ardour of the assailants.
These years of passionate unrest have left behind them no permanent achievement. Neither group is appreciably stronger than it was when the rivalry began. Its only permanent monument is to be found in the National Debts of the Powers which have engaged in it, in their military and naval budgets, and in their burden of taxation. For the rest, what has been gained? Our hold, indeed, is firmer on Egypt. France has taken Morocco. Austria has snatched a title to Bosnia. Russia with our connivance has destroyed the liberties of Persia, and occupied apparently in permanence its more advanced and populous provinces. There was talk of a League of Peace and a coalition of the Liberal Powers when we concluded our understanding with France. What Liberal purpose has it furthered; what Liberal principle has it established? We soon discovered that what France wanted from us was not our Liberal principles but our navy. When Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman talked of reducing armaments, her press voiced a barely courteous disgust; it is enthusiastic only when Mr. Churchill undertakes (in his own phrase) to provide that "shattering, blasting, overpowering force," which helped France to seize Morocco. We soon discovered that if we would embrace Liberal France, we must stretch our arms to include reactionary Russia. We found Russia after the Manchurian War a staggering chaos. We have helped to restore its solvency and revive its prestige, while it hanged its Socialists, dissolved its Dumas, imprisoned its deputies, flogged its noblest youth, oppressed its Jews. defiled the free soil of Finland, and erected its gallows in the cities of Persia. Nowhere has the Triple Entente served a Liberal thought, and at no time in the long rivalry has this battle over the balance of power turned on an intelligible principle, or a purpose which promised anything to the common good of Europe. Its angry career has only disclosed the futility and triviality of the ideas which have inspired it. In vain have we and our partners sought security in alliances. The mounting record of our armaments gives the measure of our growing fears. The rivalry is pursued on a greater scale With each effort the standard of sacrifice is raised, and still no Power gains the sense of security or immunity from challenge. There is nothing to be won from all this uncompensated mischief, unless it be a clear vision of what is really involved. There is at stake nothing whatever in Europe, nothing at all that touches any vital interest of any European democracy. The angers and suspicions which the strife engenders, the megalomania on one side and the panic fears on the other-these are the psychological irrelevancies of the process. The tangible realities at stake are measurable, and they turn out on investigation to be nothing but certain opportunities for expansion valued by the restless finance of one Power or the other. It is an economic motive which underlies the struggle for a balance of power.
[A NOTE TO CHAPTER I]
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