HENRY NOEL BRAILSFORD
THE WAR OF STEEL AND GOLD
A STUDY OF THE ARMED PEACE
THE CONCERT OF EUROPE
IN the early phases of the Peace Movement, Arbitration seemed to be the one remedy that was needed for the nightmare fear of war and the sedentary incubus of armaments. Young movements are always hopeful, and it is only after long years of disappointment that they realise the whole extent and complication of the mischief with which they are contending, and revise the expectations which they founded on their first prescription. The defects of arbitration as a substitute for war are better understood to-day, and indeed most writers and speakers who use the word now have come to give it a broad and general meaning, which covers any appeal to reason. It is the antithesis to brutal force, and it is generally understood to include mediation or indeed any settlement by the intervention of disinterested parties. The obvious difficulties are sufficiently familiar. There is no means, while we continue to think of States as isolated units, by which a reluctant Power can be brought to accept arbitration or even mediation. Mr. Kruger proposed it before the South Africa War, and there was no appeal open to him from the refusal of the British Government. The mediation of Russia on the eve of the second Balkan War had actually been accepted, in word at least, by all the Balkan States, when King Ferdinand and General Savoff suddenly began hostilities by what they doubtless considered a bold Bismarckian stroke. The other obvious difficulty, that one party or the other might disregard the findings of the arbitrator, is probably less serious. From the moment that arbitration had been accepted, passions would subside, and few States would enter the international Court unless they intended to obey it. So long, however, as governments reserve points of honour and vital national interests as questions unfit for arbitration, this expedient cannot be regarded as an established substitute for war. The honour of nations is a tempting theme for satire, but this reservation does, in fact, point to the real inadequacy alike of arbitration and of mediation.
Arbitration is a judicial process, and it cannot in international affairs achieve more than the civil law accomplishes in a civilised State. We trust our courts to interpret statutes, to adjudicate on contracts, and to deal with money claims. But we do not allow them to legislate for us, or to determine national policy. A Court may decide whether John Smith owes £100 to Patrick Kelly, but it is not allowed to determine whether a nation of Smiths owes Home Rule to a nation of Kellys. The same manifest limits apply to arbitration in international affairs. There is a great range of disputes which are judiciable, but it includes rather questions which might with ill-will be used as a pretext for war, than questions which any two nations in their senses would seriously consider worth a war. It is probable that the limits of arbitration, in the strict sense of the word, have been reached already, and that civilised nations will usually resort to it when disputes over judiciable questions arise between them. One may and ought to arbitrate about the interpretation of the wording of a treaty, about the delimitation of a frontier which has in any sense been fixed in the past by usage or agreement, about liability for debts, about compensation for injuries, and about such international police cases as the North Sea outrage and the Casablanca broil. But it would be a rash claim to say that any one of the recent wars could have been settled naturally and properly by judicial arbitration. Could a Court of jurists have examined the title of Spain to rule in Cuba and the Philippines, determined whether a degree of oppression existed which justified revolt, and finally pronounced on the right of the United States to intervene? These are questions which transcend law. They are questions of morals and sentiment, and where they touch interest, it is the interest which no contracts can define. Between Russia and Japan, in the dispute over Manchuria and Korea, a Court could only have said that both of them were interlopers and that neither had a shadow of legal right. It would have been as hopelessly beyond its depth in the Moroccan, the Persian, or the Balkan questions. It might indeed have settled the interpretation of the secret treaty of alliance and partition between Servia and Bulgaria, but any civil Court in such a case would declare that such a contract, for the division of another country's territories, is against public morals and therefore null and void.
Where arbitration is manifestly inapplicable, there remains, fortunately, the method of mediation. A mediator differs from an arbitrator mainly in this, that he is not bound by legal principles. His decision will not make a precedent or govern future cases. He renders no judgment. He acts by the light of common sense, and will usually content himself with proposing, as a friend of both parties, a compromise which will do substantial justice, so far as possible, to both their claims, and avert war by saving what they are pleased to call their honour. Oddly enough, though the Hague Convention actually enjoins upon neutral Powers the duty of offering mediation to avert a quarrel, there has been no successful instance of its use in our day. The Tsar's action in the Balkan quarrel was rather mediation than arbitration, and it failed to prevent war, presumably because both sides were confident of their ability to win in a trial of strength, and also because neither of them trusted the impartiality of the Russian Government. It may be premature to doubt whether mediation as a means of avoiding war has a future before it. It certainly has no past. It is an untried procedure, and there clearly are some reasons why States which have a vital issue at stake should be reluctant to rely on it. A jurist is at least expected to act on fixed principles which he applies to a given case. But a mediator must interpret not international law, but international morality. It is a large trust to repose in a foreign monarch or in the minister whom he may name to act for him. It is not easy in such cases to discover a neutral who will inspire equal confidence in both parties. The result, if this method of settling disputes became common, would usually be a compromise which neither party would consider satisfactory. To dictate a settlement which may have to be bold and far-reaching, to sanction, conceivably, some rather novel and revolutionary principle in international politics, and perhaps to send one of the disputants empty away, it is clear that there must be a strong and independent mediator, whose decisions inspire respect, a mediator powerful enough to ignore the discontent of the unsuccessful State. It will rarely happen that any single Power satisfies these conditions. The ideal mediator, in short, is no one Power, but a Council of all the Powers. Such a concert or Council of Powers is comparable not to a Court of Law or to a private mediator, but to a Federal Government or Council, which is expected to take broad decisions of policy in the name of the common good. It has to decide, where there is no question of legal right at issue, what solution will best serve the interests of humanity as a whole.
It may seem to require a bold faith, in the last pages of a book which has traced the egoism of contemporary Powers, to suggest that the world's final hope of peace depends on bringing all these egoisms together into a Council, where they must struggle together to elaborate a disinterested solution. Unluckily for the idealist, the Concert exists in name, and has a history. "Where" the student of history may ask, "where from the Congress of Vienna to the Council of London, has it justified this touching faith? Did not the Congress of Vienna amuse itself by defying those aspirations of nationality which a series of triumphant revolutions was to justify? Did not the Congress of Berlin hand back to Turkish misrule those provinces which have only now been 'liberated,' after a generation of misery and two wars of unexampled horror? Did not the Conference of London preside over the frustration of its own decisions, and sit idly by, while war followed war to advertise its impotence? A pretty device for preventing wars, forsooth. It has been in history nothing but the instrument for scattering the dragon's teeth. The recognised function of a Concert is to prepare the wars of the day after to-morrow." The indictment is only too well founded. One listens to it unconvinced, as one listens to denunciations of any institution which blunders humanly, while destiny still points to its function. In such terms as these a cold critic of history might have denounced the Parliament towards the close of the Stuart period. "Did it not make a civil war? And when it once more raised its head, it was to make a revolution. A pretty instrument of civil peace, forsooth. It makes the laws and conspires to overthrow them." In just such terms as this men used to speak of the Republic in France. But we do not doubt to-day that both institutions are guarantees of civil peace. One cannot speak with enthusiasm of any chapter in the record of the Concert, but it is commonly said, and generally believed, that the Conference of London at least achieved the considerable feat of preventing an outbreak of war between the Great Powers. If that is to ascribe to it a too active rôle and a degree of authority which it hardly possessed, it would certainly be true to say that when Austria and Russia were on the brink of war, each dreading war, and each shrinking from making concessions directly to the other, the Concert supplied them with a formula and a procedure that rendered concessions honourable and easy. Two Powers which might never compromise, if they were left alone face to face, may readily show a reasonable disposition, without loss of prestige, when they consent to become members of a common Council which claims to base its decisions on a regard for the common good. How far Sir Edward Grey, with the aid of Germany, acted as a mediator, how far Austria and Russia really settled their differences directly under the soothing influence of the formula of a Conference, no outsider can know. The general belief ascribes much to Sir Edward Grey's good offices, and he has himself attributed much merit to Germany. In either case, it is clear that the Conference did achieve precisely what a Concert ought to achieve. The creation of a free Albania stands to its credit. If the second Balkan War broke out, that is not a proof of the futility of the Concert. The discredit for that disaster belongs, in so far as any one outside the Balkans is to blame, primarily to Russian diplomacy. One need not assume that if Sir Edward Grey had invited the disputants to refer their quarrel to the London Conference under his direction, he would have failed, as the Tsar did, to avert war.
A philosophic historian will demonstrate with much conviction, after the fact, how inevitable was the evolution which constituted the modern national State out of its minor components. We do not doubt that it was a beneficial and necessary process which made the United Kingdom, or consolidated Italy, or built up the German Empire from its constituent States. We, who are involved to-day in a much slower and as yet less conscious process, may still see, perhaps with less assurance, before the event, that factors are at work which are moulding a Europe that will learn to act as a unity. One need not speak of the dream of a United States of Europe, though it may possibly be some federal organisation so closely knit as to deserve that name, which will in the fulness of time emerge. A measure of unity much less compact than that would suffice to make wars obsolete; and to end the folly of competing armaments. The minimum which is required for such an end is an organisation based on the model of the London Conference, but less restricted in its scope and more permanent in its aims. What was done for the Balkan crisis must be done in every crisis which threatens to embroil the world. We need not trouble ourselves to consider where it will sit, nor who shall summon it, nor what statutes, if any, will guide it. An institution which grows in response to a need will prove itself in action, and can evolve under the pressure of circumstances. The only indispensable condition for its growth is the European mind, which recognises that a common ideal of civilisation demands its organs, and is intolerant of chaotic strife. Amid the fears of the world and the alarms of war, in spite of predatory interests, and the indolent scepticism of little minds, we can discern factors which are making for this evolution. Of the factors of opinion it is hardly necessary to speak---the disgust with our present plight which is the common mood of most educated minds, the puzzled, compromising, yet wholly sincere good will which is the usual profession of Liberal parties throughout Europe, the conscious indoctrinated sense of class-solidarity which knits the Socialists of all advanced countries in a vast league of peace. But beyond all this, there are non-moral forces which are working towards the same end. It becomes with each year and each decade more difficult to regard any considerable and dangerous issue as the affair of two Powers alone, who may be left to "fight it out " with their blood on their own heads. Every Power in Europe is, to begin with, a member of a Group, and even if the issue in question does not oblige the others to share in the hostilities to which it may give rise, they cannot afford without an effort to see their partner pre-occupied, weakened by a struggle, and perhaps defeated. To that extent the system of alliances, which seems at a first glance only to dig a chasm in Europe, does make for a certain perverted and paradoxical solidarity. If the Powers are as yet incapable of a broadly European outlook, if they do not realise the fraternity which in every issue would make them the brother's keeper of any member of the European family, each is of necessity its ally's keeper. Three Powers, at least, are to-day world-Powers, with interests or ambitions so widespread that nothing which can happen anywhere can find them quite indifferent. The stoic nil humanum a me alienum puto is a moral ideal beyond modern diplomacy. But a Power comes near it in effect when it declares that every human issue touches its interests. Our own country, by reason of its trade and its scattered possessions, has been for many generations the type of a world-Power. France by the intricate permeation of her investments is in the same case. Germany has in our day claimed this status, and built a navy to enforce it. If Russia's interests are not world-wide, they do at least cover a vast area. The Moroccan question was the test case which demonstrated that in the modern world it is henceforth impossible for two Powers to settle a considerable issue without considering the views of their neighbours. After that experience the choice is clear. It lies between such perils and confusions as the vain attempt to exclude Germany from the settlement caused in fact, and a frank recognition from the start that "world-politics" are a matter for the Concert to settle.
Midway in the Moroccan quarrel, the Kaiser, in one of his more truculent speeches, remarked that nothing must happen in the world "without Germany." This claim to be consulted in every world-event may be, and doubtless in the Kaiser's mouth it was, simply an expression of political high spirits. But the maxim is capable, in the Kantian phrase, of being universalised. It lays down the basis on which a real Concert of Europe might be founded. Let us say rather that nothing should happen throughout the world without the consent of all the civilised Powers. We should, perhaps, exclude America, since the Monroe Doctrine makes it a self-contained continent. We may also admit that, for practical purposes, the Concert will not in every instance be the same. Japan has no status in a European, nor Austria and Italy in an Asiatic question. But the meaning of our principle is clear. There ought to be no change in the status quo, which means the acquisition by any Power of rights over another State, however backward or weak, without the consent of the general body of civilised opinion. It is obvious that this principle, and this principle alone, can set a check upon lawless aggression, appease the rivalries of predatory Powers, and create a tribunal to which the weak may appeal. It will be objected that this means the constant meddling in questions which do not concern them of Powers which have no real "interest" in some given region of the earth. When Germany claimed a voice in the Moroccan affair, Britain and France retorted that she is not a Mediterranean Power. A like answer would doubtless be returned if she were to obtrude her opinion at some phase of the Persian crisis. But, to our thinking, an opinion gains in value precisely in so far as it is disinterested. What a monstrous theory it is that Britain and Russia, simply because they have considerable material interests, political, strategic, and mercantile, in Persia, should have the right to dispose of the destinies of its people.
Just because they are bound to think of their own interests, rather than the good of the Persian people, are they incapable of fulfilling their assumed task. British financiers have lent money to Egypt, and therefore British administrators are held to be the proper persons to conduct the education of Egypt. There could be no more immoral or unreasonable proposition than this. John Smith, let us suppose, has been made bankrupt for a debt to some Amalgamated Dynamite Trust, and has ,gone to the mad-house in despair. Does it follow that the Trust should be made the guardian and tutor of John Smith's children? We can usually find in modern diplomacy a precedent for any principle, even for the wider and humaner principles. There was, in 1905, a phase of the Turkish question when the Powers were discussing who should take the initiative or the main responsibility for the reforms in Macedonia. Austria and Russia, because they are the neighbours of Turkey, claimed to be the "interested" Powers, and demanded the right on that account to carry through a scheme of their own. Lord Lansdowne, in a memorable despatch, challenged this claim, both in theory and in its particular application, and vindicated the right of the disinterested Powers to a parity of control over Macedonia. He was emphatically right. Austria and Russia, because they were interested, were certain to pursue only their own interests. The other Powers have occasionally allowed some fitful regard for the interests of the peoples of Turkey to influence their policy. The Concert of Europe is a very slow and very fallible instrument of justice. It has sanctioned many a wrong, ignored many a misery, and proved itself in crisis after crisis, nerveless, lethargic and unintelligent. But with all its faults it is a check upon the ambitions of any single Power; it cannot be captured by any one national group of financiers, and it has, on occasion, at least affected to listen to the pleas of the subject races or lesser States whose fate hung in the balance.
The fundamental basis in the theory of a Concert is that interests must not be confused with rights. No Power has any rights over another people. The Moors, the Persians and the Bosnians alone have rights in Morocco, Persia and Bosnia. To an act of barter between interested Powers we must refuse the sanctity of law. If change is inevitable in the status of any people, it is the Common Council of the civilised world which alone can sanction it. We must go on to say that the formation of alliances among the Powers is an act of treason to this ideal of a Concert, because they stand in the way of any decision based upon the merits of the case. The Concert ought to decide what would be best for Morocco, Persia or Bosnia, as the case may be. It cannot do this if Britain is pledged to think only of what will be best for France, and Austria only of what will be best for Germany. Groupings of Powers are, of course, inevitable. But they should resemble rather the coalition of parties in a Parliament than the old-world dynastic alliance. Their basis must be a community of principles and opinions. On one condition only should we reluctantly approve of a temporary alliance. If any Power or group of Powers seeks to evade the control of the Concert, refuses to submit common European affairs to its judgment, defies the decisions reached at a Conference, or seeks to impose its will on others without a mandate from the Common Council, it would be legitimate to combine against it, to "isolate" it, and to make it impotent for evil. Let this principle once be acknowledged and the chief motive for armaments is gone. Armaments are the means by which Powers seek to obtain immunity and opportunity for expansion. But if expansion itself is dependent on the consent of the Concert, armaments have lost half their utility. It would, of course, be folly to suppose that the acceptance of this principle of the supremacy of the Concert would at once create harmony, and bring about a reduction of armaments. But it would at once achieve this, it would make a standard for the conscience of the civilised world, it would provide an objective test by which the loyalty of any policy might be tried, and above all it would supply a common ground on which all the parties of peace might take their stand. It would conduce to a gradual slackening of the European tension, a gradual loosening of the existing alliances, and in time create an atmosphere in which, a proposal for the reduction of armaments, and eventually some scheme for the creation of a loose Federal Council to decide the common affairs of Europe might at least be considered.
To sketch Utopias which as yet have only a few stones of their foundations in reality is apt to be a demoralising exercise of the fancy. But from any statement of the ideal we return with a sharper sense of the faultiness of the actuality. A Concert we cannot have while the Powers are divided in two unnatural groups, which struggle for a balance without even a political principle to make an intelligible division between them. These groups may come together at present for deliberations which have a show of friendliness, but a real debate is impossible so long as the attitude of each Power is fixed by its alliances. An allied Power in the last resort must always be prepared to say "my ally, right or wrong." A disinterested arbiter in this strife can never be found. It would, however, be an error to regard even this state of things too pessimistically. No alliance is always equally valid and equally observed. Great Britain broke away in some degree from Russia and France when she assisted in the creation of Albania.. Italy, to some slight extent, held aloof from the Triple Alliance during the conference over Morocco at Algeciras. The most fateful of all these developments has been the recent approach of Britain to Germany through several phases of the Balkan crisis. Each was resolved to keep the peace; neither had much direct national interest in the questions at issue. Inevitably they acted as moderators, and acted together. The approach has survived the immediate occasion, and it may prove to be permanent. The leisurely adjustment of the questions of conflicting interest which hinge on the Bagdad railway and certain matters touching African colonies is not yet concluded as these pages are written, but it is said to be morally complete, and if that be so, it ought to leave a lasting impress on Anglo-German relations. Nothing has been wanting but good will during the last decade for the conclusion of such an understanding. There is much to criticise in the manners and morals of German diplomacy, but a Power bent on "real" rather than sentimental ends is a Power with whom one can always do business, if the will to adjust conflicting interests is felt on both sides, as it now is. One rejoices that these very limited occasions of friction have been cleared away, but it is an even greater gain for European peace that some parallel adjustment of minor Franco-German difficulties has taken place simultaneously.(22)
When Anatole France and Jean Jaurès were in London early in this year (1914), the one thing which they both said with urgency and iteration was to appeal to England to act as the mediator and common friend between France and Germany. Jaurès referred to Mirabeau's dream of a moral union of the French, British and German peoples to secure the peace of Europe. That was indeed a hope in which the whole generation of the Revolution used to indulge, before Pitt revived the doctrine of the Balance of Power. Thomas Paine even predicted that ten years would see the end of war through such a coalition, though he substituted the United States for Germany. After a century of disillusionment the dream revives. It is a bolder and more far-reaching conception than the too narrow ideal of an Anglo-German understanding on which English pacifists have concentrated. An Anglo-German understanding of the conventional pattern we probably could have to-morrow, and might have had ten years ago. The obstacle to it at the opening of the century was, as Prince von Bülow has clearly shown, the suspicion that our diplomacy meant to use it against Russia. An understanding of that type, for the division of someone else's country into spheres of "work" or "influence" or "penetration," and for the frustration of some rival diplomacy, would add nothing whatever to the peace and security of Europe. It would only lead to some new adjustment of the Balance of Power. When we think of peace we must learn to think as Europeans. The real problem of the creation of a Concert is primarily the problem of the removal of Franco-German enmity, and so far as outside forces can promote it, it is British influence which seems naturally designed to bring it about. If a firm habit of co-operation were created between these three Powers, the two triple groups would have ceased to confront each other as hostile coalitions, and the alliances among the six Powers which provide for mutual defence in the event of war would gradually grow obsolete, though they might continue to exist. A natural grouping of the more advanced Western Powers would have been formed, and as concrete questions came up for decision, it would assert its reality over the cross-grouping of the older associations, because it would have behind it the sentiment of the three democracies. There is nothing impossible or illogical in the co-existence of two different systems of grouping. The Western Group would be an entente for peace. The other trinities are groups for war. Events would show, as the years went on, how vastly more important is peace than war. The aim should be rather to create a Western party in the Councils of Europe, which would act, in the broad sense of the word, as the Liberal party, and nothing would prevent the association of Italy with it, when she has tired of asserting her virility in futurist adventures. It would expand naturally into a broad European association as Austria progressed in the task of putting her house in order, and the Russian people asserted itself with success against its bureaucracy. But it would be fatal to the hope of a Concert that such a Western Group should start with the idea of breaking up the existing systems and setting another of the same kind in their place. It ought to be a group designed to promote the settlement of common European questions by the methods of a Concert; it must not be an alliance formed to attain national ends by the methods of the balance.
The immediate obstacle to the formation of a Western Group is not the question of armaments; that is not more than an expression and a consequence of the practice of the doctrine of a Balance. Nor is it any longer the waning Anglo-German antagonism. It is something more human and more lasting than the frivolous and factitious rivalry of British and German Imperialism in distant regions of the earth. It is, in a word, the French sentiment over the lost provinces. It is hard to say how far that sentiment survives. It lives, like all national idealism, by a connivance of courage and cowardice. Any adventurer or rhetorician may play openly upon it. Any army contractor may exploit it. But few dare to combat it openly outside the Socialist ranks. It is stronger among the old than the young; time is against it. It is rarely met by the direct demand that it shall be solemnly renounced; rather it encounters the accumulating proof that it cannot be hopefully cherished. The masses who resent three years' service renounce it as effectually, when they shrink from that sacrifice, as the thinkers who oppose it in words. Nor is it a sentiment which really serves the interests of the greater world of French finance. The efforts first of the banker-premier Rouvier, and then of M. Caillaux, to conclude a comprehensive understanding with Germany on a basis of finance, were a proof that the present interference of sentiment with business, by which the French money market is closed to German enterprises, is felt to be irksome and unprofitable. The pressure of material factors is always at work to wear away the vitality of a mere sentiment in politics. Now it is the investor who would like to share in German ventures, or even does on occasion surreptitiously share in them. Again it is the business world which joins the pacifists in asking, timidly and fitfully indeed, for a more reasonable Franco-German tariff. It is not exactly a heroic spectacle---this dwindling of a brave and vivid emotion under commercial influences. But even this prosaic process is a translation in crude language of the fact that a sentiment must find its place and its proportion in the whole universe of a nation's concerns. It may never be renounced, but it may well be buried. It is not a passion fierce enough to sweep aside the restraints of prudence and the calculations of probability. Undoubtedly when the alliance with Russia was first contracted, there were Frenchmen who hoped and believed that Russia could be induced to march with France in a war of revenge. That illusion has long since faded, and sober Frenchmen realise only too clearly that the first concern of Russian policy is to keep the peace with the German neighbour. So far from desiring to aid France in any war of aggression, the concern of Russia is rather to hold back her impetuous right arm. To-day the doubt is even whether Russia would loyally back her ally in a war of defence, and if her loyalty were above suspicion, military students ask themselves of what service a Power could be whose mobilisation would hardly be completed before the decisive actions of the Franco-German campaign had been fought out. There were moments when our own country seemed to the ardent hopes of French nationalists a possible substitute for Russian aid. But closer study has revealed our profound reluctance to create a conscript army, and without it what effective help could we render in a land war? Little by little, as alliances have proved a vain hope, and the numerical disparity of the French against the German armies grows each year more evident, the material impossibility of a war of revenge has impressed itself on the national consciousness. The dying sentiment can scarcely now inspire an honest hope. An adventure it has never fired. Its utmost power is negative : it avails to delay reconciliation, and to frustrate all efforts at disarmament.
If it is difficult to measure the present force of the sentiment of the revanche among Frenchmen, it is even harder to arrive at the truth about the opinions of the people of Alsace and Lorraine. The German Empire has made little progress in the work of assimilating these conquered populations. If German culture has made some progress, it has not displaced French culture, nor seriously weakened the sentiment of affection towards France. Indeed, a new sense of resentment against the Prussian spirit of orderly force and regulated brutality has been engendered by a bitter experience, and has strengthened the original sympathy of this Germanic people for the French. Prussian efficiency has its limitations, and it has behaved in its handling of the Alsatians with a baffling want of intelligence; one might indeed plausibly guess that the rulers of Prussia did not wish to win the Alsatians by conciliation; they preferred to alienate them while they could master them. One contemplates in this spectacle perhaps the most melancholy instance of human folly. Had Bismarck refrained from annexing, or had he annexed only what was necessary for strategic reasons, it is possible that European civilisation would have entered this century free from the fears that arm it, fetter it, and beset it to-day. It is even probable that if he had done what Liberalism did in South Africa, if he had conceded to the Reichsland within a few years of its annexation the full status of a sovereign State in the Federal Empire, the problem of Alsace would have disappeared from the consciousness of Europe a generation ago. The sufferers for this failure of statesmanship are not merely in the first place the people of Alsace, and after them the nations of Germany and France, armed and regimented to maintain or to undo this unceasing conquest. The evil which sprang from this one act radiates in unceasing mischief to all the ends of Europe. It affects the Russian conscript in a Siberian barracks. It is felt in London when we measure our fleet and contrive our expeditionary corps. It is the one historical cause which now affects the struggle for a balance of power, the only important legacy from the past which complicates the modern strife for distant fields of exploitation. In a retrospective Utopian mood one can imagine what would have been the ideal destiny of these provinces after the war of 1870. If some all-powerful philosopher-king had presided then over an awakened Concert, he would have erected Alsace-Lorraine into a neutral but independent State, German by race, French by culture, destined by its affinities to mediate between the two peoples, and by its situation to serve as a barrier between their armies. With a continuous belt of neutral territory stretching from Belgium through Alsace to Switzerland, another Franco-German war would have become an impossibility. But these are dreams. The question of to-day is whether this Alsatian question is in reality insoluble save by war.
The probability is that its gravity is immensely exaggerated, and for a quite intelligible reason. When one reads the eloquent pages which Prince von Bülow has devoted to the expression of his opinion that the French will never forget 1870, will never cease to work for the recovery of Alsace, and will never tolerate a reconciliation with Germany, one may not be convinced, but one is troubled and impressed. The impression gains a new clearness, when one reaches the further chapters in the same book (Imperial Germany), which argue that Prussia .must never surrender her leadership in the German Empire, that Germany must remain an essentially military State, that responsible Parliamentary government would be its ruin, and that a military State requires a strong monarchy. The connection of the two sets of opinions can hardly escape the least suspicious reader. It was by no meaningless theatrical gesture that the German Empire was founded on drawn swords in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles. Buried beneath its foundation-stone is the treaty which gave it Alsace. It exists on the dual basis of the German will to hold these provinces and the French will to recover them. To the German nation this basis is unnecessary. A full democracy requires no such stimulus to its corporate life.
The thing which must be founded on hate and greed is the domination of the Prussian land-owning and military caste. Every institution of the Empire is designed to maintain its profitable and oppressive ascendancy, from the monstrous anomaly of the Prussian Three-class franchise to the anachronism of the Kaiser's personal rule. This Prussian ruling class dominates, as the Spartans did, by maintaining even in peace the illusion of a continual state of war. That state of war is upheld primarily because Alsace is subjected to a daily and unending conquest. It is part of this illusion that France is ever watching for her chance to recover the provinces. If the sentiment of the revanche did not exist, Prussia would have had to invent it. She has invented it; she has perpetuated it; she goads and exasperates it, even to-day, by such deliberate and organised provocations as the Zabern incident. Germans must at all costs be made to believe that the Alsatians are ever ready to revolt, and the French ever ready to cross the frontier. If by such partial acts of generosity as the recent concession of a faulty but still extensive system of Home Rule to Alsace, the Alsatians are lapsing into relative contentment; if by the flux of years and the pressure of other interests the French are forgetting their cherished sentiment of revenge, then the Prussian ruling caste must needs reopen the old wounds, and Colonel von Reuter, with the Crown Prince to back him, found the way at Zabern. We are here in presence of a phenomenon comparable to our own doctrine of capture at sea. The Prussian ruling caste will not allow the Alsatian question to slumber, because it is the best argument for their own military ascendancy. The first consequence of an evolution which should bury the Alsatian question in oblivion, would be the breaking of the Prussian yoke and the triumph of democracy in Germany, with all that this would mean for the decline of militarism and the reduction of armaments. So it is among ourselves; the abandonment of capture at sea would allow of a reduction of the navy. Every nation has its own chimaera, a nightmare which militarism deliberately breeds in its own Imperial studs. The German nightmare is the dread of losing Alsace. Ours is the fear of the loss of our shipping in wartime. Both of these factitious monsters could be hamstrung with one swift blow of commonsense. Abandon the doctrine of capture, and half the case for great navies would be destroyed; free Alsace, and Germany need no longer be organised for perennial conquest.(23) One may sometimes hear even from intensely anti-Prussian Alsatians the confession that a return to French rule has now become not only impossible but undesirable. While they still chafe under the rule of Prussian officials and Prussian soldiers, they have perforce built up with Germany, under the pressure of the protective tariff which inevitably diverted their trade from France, ties of commerce and credit which could not now be broken without catastrophic consequences to their industry. If Alsace were but granted such full autonomy as Bavaria or Saxony enjoy, it is doubtful whether a plébiscite would show a majority for a return to French rule.
The Alsatian question, in short, is no insuperable barrier to a Franco-German understanding. The French know that they cannot hope to recover the provinces by arms. The Alsatians are divided between sentiment and recent but powerful ties of interest. All that is required, if one may venture to prophesy where nothing can be certainly known, is that the mailed fist should relax its grasp, and that a homely local administration should take its place. So much has been conceded already, that it is not wholly futile to hope for this. When it happens a real Concert of Europe will have become possible; it will indeed exist. But one may doubt whether Germany will be capable of such an act of grace, until the Prussian ascendancy has been undermined, and the spirit of the Prussian State itself transformed by the concession of a democratic franchise. In the last resort the triumph of a liberal civilisation in Europe awaits two internal events---the establishment in Russia of the Duma's supremacy over the bureaucracy and the Court, and the defeat of the Prussian squirearchy by the Prussian masses. Neither event can be indefinitely delayed, but until both these events are consummated, there will not exist in full consciousness and supremacy that sovereign ideal of self-governing nationality which thinkers presuppose when they dream of a United States of Europe. That vision lies in the future, but some unforeseen internal changes might conceivably make it a by no means distant future. The steps towards it are not difficult strides. They are mainly two. The first of them is the promotion of such a degree of confidence, if not of cordiality, between Britain, France and Germany as would enable a council of the Powers to meet at frequent intervals on the model of the London conference, and to consider common European questions without inevitably breaking into two groups which neutralise each other. The second of them is the formation of a fixed opinion that no change ought anywhere to be made in the territorial status quo, no spheres allotted, no areas of penetration mapped out, without the assent of all the Powers. That opinion must be argued and preached and reiterated until it hardens into a canon of international law. When it is impossible for "anything to happen in the world" (to use the Kaiser's phrase) without the Concert, we shall at last have left behind the predatory phase of world-politics, with its inevitable accompaniment, the endless unrest of a struggle for a Balance of Power. Until that canon. is imposed by public opinion and acknowledged by statesmen, there can be no end to the competition in armaments. The present method of barters and bargains between pairs of Powers may be a means of avoiding war, but it is nothing better than a ratification of bloodless conquests which have been achieved by the dry warfare of competing armaments. It is a method ruthless in its disregard of the rights of undeveloped peoples, and anti-social in its unconcern for the rights of third Powers. It does but measure the ability of the expanding Empire to take by force what it desires, against the ability of its rival to use force to restrain it. It is hopeless to declaim against the silent, half-conscious reliance of diplomacy upon force as its ultimate sanction. The hopeful method of dealing with this evil is to provide an alternative means of settling those questions which alone make an adequate motive for the accumulation of force. The essential is that such questions of the future as the destinies of Asiatic Turkey and China shall be settled, if ever they call for European intervention, by a Concert of the Powers. But this Concert will be no substitute for the armed bargaining of single Powers, unless its members enter it untrammelled by alliances, and free to act round its table on a disinterested view of what the common good requires. That is the ideal of a Concert, an ideal which seems to-day to be dismally remote. It is remote largely because it is not consciously grasped by the masses of thinking men who aspire to peace. By mere negotiation we shall not reach the reduction of armaments, nor shall we by arbitration abolish war. There is no solution save in the resolve that European questions shall be settled by Europe. When many wills are set to this end, when many brains are bent on its realisation, there will come that change in the intellectual atmosphere by which alone great reforms are achieved.
The mischiefs which oppress us to-day in the intercourse of nations will be exorcised only when clear and negative thinking has dispelled the megalomania that distracts us. The Powers struggle to-day over nothing vital, nothing homely, nothing relevant to our daily life. The great things in life, the high purposes for which nations exist, are not the struggle to mark out spheres of exploitation, the competition for the usurer's share in financing a dying Empire, or the question as to which national group of capitalists shall draw the profits of cheap native labour. It is a sophistication and a sentimentality which lends to this process the emotions of patriotism. There is in all of us an uneasy sense that this international struggle is distracting the mind of society, which ought to be bent on the civilisation of our own barbarous way of life, while it dissipates on the engines of strife the resources that would suffice to raise the casual labourer and the sweated woman worker to a human level of comfort and freedom. That vague distress, if it is to help us forward, must be translated into a searching curiosity, and developed into an indignant scepticism. It is not enough to desire peace. The generation which attains peace will have won it by an intellectual passion. It must feel the waste and the degradation of our present fears so deeply, that it will think its way through the subtleties and the secrecies which render plausible the present misconduct of international affairs. It will find, when it has faced its problem, that it is not national necessities but class-interests which condemn us to the armed peace. It will realise that in this vast competitive process, by which capital is spreading itself over the globe, there is no motive which can require, no reason which can excuse the hostility of nations. Let a people once perceive for what purposes its patriotism is prostituted, and its resources misused, and the end is already in sight. When that illumination comes to the masses of the three Western Powers, the fears which fill their barracks and build their warships will have lost the power to drive. A clear-sighted generation will scan the horizon and find no enemy. It will drop its armour, and walk the world's highways safe.
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