ROLAND G. USHER
WHEN the historian leaves the consideration of schemes and plans and undertakes even to sketch the course of events in current history, he finds himself in the peculiar position for a historian of being overwhelmed with details of whose meaning he is by no means certain. Indeed, he is continually exposed to the danger of assuming that all events have some meaning and that particular events are of necessity those truly significant. While the archives remain closed and the diplomatic correspondence a sealed book, while the real answers to all those questions he most anxiously asks are known only to a few distressingly discreet men, he can hardly do more than indicate the main features of current politics, which seem, after mature consideration, to have an absolutely unavoidable connection with the execution of this great scheme. Indeed, the historian is in that extraordinary position, true of no other epoch in history, of knowing the plans far more certainly than he does their execution. He must in matter of fact be constantly prepared, always with due caution, to interpret facts, which he frequently does not understand, by means of the schemes which he definitely knows to be in the minds of statesmen. Nor is there possible in modern history anything like a clear demonstration of the truth of any single proposition by the line and precept familiar to investigators in other fields. In the nature of things, final proof of the truth of any single assertion is impossible, and will continue to be impossible for certainly two generations and perhaps a century. The historian, therefore, is forced to do the best he can, and must be more than chary of attempting to deal with anything except the broadest outlines of the story. Exactly what relation to its broad outline any single series of events may have, is impossible to indicate with accuracy, and the reader must be aware that the historian is not attempting to give him certainties, but is forced to give him statements which would be considered, in treating any period of past history, conjectures, but which are, in current history, literally the best we have.
The authorship of the, great scheme which we call Pan-Germanism is least of all a matter of certainty. There seems to be little doubt that it was the product of German thought and of German interests, but no student of current affairs can believe for a moment that important aspects of it were not the result of the views and interests of Austria and Italy. Bismarck was the first statesman to see all its possibilities, though we are as yet unable to be certain how much of what is now called Pan-Germanism he is actually responsible for. Von Bieberstein, Von Tirpitz, and above all the present Emperor, are responsible for much, and certainly deserve the credit (or discredit) of bringing the scheme to its present state of perfection. The date of its origin(18) is an even more perplexing question, and could be more definitely settled if we were sure that events of the past generation were all steps in the development or furtherance of the same scheme and not of two or three schemes, out of which the exigencies of times and occasions gradually developed the present Pan-Germanism. The historian, who wishes to be cautious, is inclined to take the latter view and to conclude that Pan-Germanism is an outgrowth of the various policies advocated by German statesmen after the formation of the present empire.
The creation of the fleet, whose existence at present is without doubt one of the definitive elements of Pan-Germanism, was probably, as the Germans claim, not as vital a part of it as we might easily suppose. As has already been said, the German looks upon the fleet as the only means of insuring to Germany the continuance of her present position, unfavorable as she considers that to be. The fleet is essential, not so much to assist her expansion as to make positive her existence. In all probability there have been three phases of German policy: the first, an attempt to secure colonies; the second, an attempt to obtain entrance into the markets of the East by the establishment of a trade route across the Balkans and Turkey, which formed by international agreement a neutral zone; and thirdly, the determinedly aggressive scheme for the actual forcible conquest of the world. Exactly when the one gave way to the other, exactly which of the many events in recent history belong to one and which to another, is difficult to indicate with anything approaching accuracy.
During the decade between 1880 and 1890, an extended effort was made to obtain in various parts of the world suitable colonies for German expansion. The land not already occupied by European nations was inconsiderable in area, unfavorably located, thinly populated, and not possessed of obvious commercial advantages; but such as was available Germany occupied, not because she deemed it adequate provision for her needs, but because, at the moment, she saw no other chances for meeting the exigencies which she knew were certain to arise within a decade. The colonies thus founded on either coast of Africa and in the South Seas speedily proved their unsuitability for colonization by white men, and the improbability of their affording before the lapse of a century anything like an adequate market for German manufactures. To be sure, these colonies were in area nearly a million square miles, but their products were not greatly in excess of five dollars value for each square mile, a sum too absurdly inconsequential to be mentioned. The population of about fourteen millions was too undeveloped and too sparse to make the creation of a state possible. All the desirable land for colonies, as a matter of fact, was already in the hands of other nations, and the Germans realized with bitterness that they had been able to secure what they held, simply because other nations had not considered it of value. It was clear that the execution of any schemes for German expansion would involve interference with other nations.
The next attempt, probably only one of several, seems to have been a variation of the well-known European method of taking possession of other people's property, called peaceful penetration.
The nation, proposing to absorb a district and make a colony out of it, loans money to the ruler and to as many of his subjects as possible; obtains as security for the money advanced, if it can, a part of the public revenue; builds railways in exchange for large grants of land, and, in general, "develops" the country. Then, when the available resources have been pretty completely hypothecated, the nation claims that its interests in the territory are so considerable that it must be conceded a share in the direction of administration and policy, in order to insure the safety of its investment. A little study of the situation soon convinced the Germans that the French influence in Morocco, the English influence in Egypt, the English and Russian influence in Persia, and the influence of the United States in Central America were due precisely to these methods, and the Germans saw no reason why they should not "peaceably" penetrate some one of the South American nations, by pleading the same highly moral purpose of developing the country for the use and behoof of its inhabitants, who were, of course, to be assumed incapable of developing it themselves. After some hesitation, they seemed to have pitched upon Venezuela as the most favorable scene of operations. They succeeded in placing some large loans, in buying some mines, and in initiating a number of business enterprises, and, then, in most approved fashion, descended upon the Republic, anchored a warship in its harbor, and made the stereotyped demand for some share in the control of its administration. Of course, the rest of the world promptly saw the trend of German policy, and, with equal promptitude, realized its objective; the United States, as the nearest country, invoked against Germany a new variety of the Monroe Doctrine, and informed the disgusted Germans that they would not be permitted to interfere in the government of Venezuela. They certainly could not afford peaceably to penetrate countries unless they were to be allowed to enjoy the profits of the enterprise. Besides, they became aware, with rather painful force, of the fact, which they had no doubt always known, that they could obtain access to such a colony in the Gulf of Mexico, while England and the United States controlled the Atlantic Ocean, only by the permission of those two nations, both of whom indicated with considerable firmness their distinct dislike of Germany's proposed action.
The Germans turned their eyes, therefore, to Africa, and in particular toward the great temperate district of South Africa as a zone becomingly fitted by nature for the use and behoof of the white race. The temperate climate, the presence of the great diamond mines, of deposits of gold in all probability huge in size, the certainty of the profitableness of agriculture and cattle-raising, offered enticing prospects for the successful development there of a great colony, which would provide a considerable market for German goods and would raise products of its own with which to pay for them. German Southwest Africa would afford a basis from which to act in case they should ever desire to take the offensive, but the existence of the Boer Republic made it probable that it would not be necessary for Germany herself to take the field; she could much more easily and profitably act through the hands of the Boers. The strained relations between the latter and the English simplified the problem of producing a casus belli for a war which might easily result in robbing England of a most valuable colony, which Germany might succeed in annexing. In addition, the project boasted the double advantage of testing the strength of the British Empire, its defensive ability, the loyalty of its subjects, and, whatever the result might be, the information, which the war would certainly afford Germany, would be well worth the money and arms she would have to furnish the Boers to get them to begin it. Supposing that the war should succeed, should reveal, as the Germans believed it would, the disloyalty of the English colonists in South Africa, should make clear to all Europe the weakness of Imperial England, the moral results would be without question stupendous. Its success, even if it should result in creating a Boer state too strong for Germany to interfere with, would cut the communications between the Cape Colony and the vast estate of Rhodesia, which lay adjacent to German East Africa, as well as to German West Africa, and which could then easily be annexed without danger and without cost. To be sure, it would be necessary to train the Boers in modern warfare and to equip them and furnish them with funds, and there was always the danger that England would discover the fact prematurely and take action before the Boers or Germany herself should be ready. However, some risks were inevitable.
The Boers took kindly to the idea. The immigration of Englishmen into their territory, the rapid expansion of the English colonies to the north and south of them, had shown them clearly that their own expansion was problematical, because the Uitlanders were multiplying by immigration at a rate vastly in excess of the natural increase of the Boers and at a rate which made it a certainty that many years would not elapse before the Boers would be outnumbered to so great an extent that their real power would disappear. From their point of view, the preservation of their autonomy depended upon action before a further increase of strength to the Uitlanders should make action impossible. Every year's delay only reduced their chances of victory. Moreover, they were promised bountiful assistance and all the supplies they should need. There is little doubt they fully intended in case of victory to defy Germany as well as England, and, if possible, cheat her of all the advantages she had hoped for. Conscious of the issue, England exerted herself to the utmost and inflicted upon the Boers in the end a crushing defeat. Not so much the wealth of her South African domain excited her as the determination to make manifest to Germany and the world the strength of her imperial bond. Her prestige she realized must be maintained at any cost, not only because of the conclusions which her subject peoples in India and Egypt would draw from a defeat, but because of the conclusions which European nations would draw. She simply could not afford to be defeated; the loss of the war might precipitate a general alliance of all Europe against her. To the amazement of the Germans, England was able to finance the war without too much effort, maintain an army in the field whose efficiency, even under new and adverse conditions, was astonishing, and which was supplied, equipped, and reinforced from England despite the distance between Southampton and Cape Town. Every nation in Europe knew that England had performed a feat which it could not perform, and had demonstrated a degree of executive and military efficiency for which no one had given her credit. The still more crushing defeat of Germany and her schemes for weakening the British Empire was accomplished by the formation of the South African Union, in whose federal bond are comprised all the varied peoples of South Africa, and in which the Boers have taken their place with singular success. So far as can be seen by foreign observers, so far as can be told from the statements of the inhabitants, the tact of the English administrators has pretty completely settled the grievances of the various elements of the European population, and has gone a long way toward solving the perplexing race issue, caused by the presence of so large a number of the natives.
German statesmen, thus thwarted, gave up, so far as can be learned, for good and all their designs upon South Africa, and turned their attention to the much more feasible scheme of constructing an overland route to the Persian Gulf. Germany and Austria very well knew that they did not own the territory stretching from their own borders to the Persian Gulf, and that they could not hope to take possession of it in the face of the international determination to preserve its neutrality. They counted upon this very neutrality as the basis for their scheme of building a railway from Constantinople to Baghdad. To relieve the fears of England and Russia, they did not propose to locate its terminus actually upon the Persian Gulf. After some difficulty and negotiation, the concession was secured from Turkey and the acquiescence of the international concert was obtained. It is not certain, but it is highly probable, that at this time the real purpose of the railway was not suspected in London or in St. Petersburg. However that may be, the loan for its construction was underwritten in Berlin and the building of the railway was begun in sections. The details of construction are hardly of consequence here, and it suffices to say that the last section of the road is just about to be begun. After work was well under way, England and Russia realized its purport and began to consider operations in Persia which should effectively prevent the railway from doing anything more than develop Asia Minor.
Thwarted thus at every turn, German statesmen found themselves fairly driven to adopt the comprehensive aggressive scheme which we now call Pan-Germanism. They began its execution at the point of least resistance and by methods so far as possible of a neutral nature. The fleet was already under construction; the railway was rapidly being built; the obvious step to take was the peaceful penetration of Turkey as the necessary preliminary for assuring Germany the continuance of the concession. Turkey, as every one knew was weak., disorganized in every way, and nothing could be more natural than an attempt by the Sultan himself at the proper administration of his own country and the adoption of financial measures which would insure the payment of his debts and his household revenue. The Sultan eagerly accepted the secret tender of German assistance in the accomplishment of such extremely desirable ends, and began, apparently upon his own initiative but really under German direction, the reorganization of the army and navy, the reorganization of the finances of his empire, gradually introducing German officers into the important positions in the state. Men were appointed governors of provinces to introduce local reforms calculated to diminish the amount of racial warfare, the friction between the soldiery and the populace, and to minimize the difficulties arising from the old struggle between the Latin and Greek Churches. Gradually, Germany insinuated herself into the confidence of the Young Turk party, already long in existence, and whose main aim was to cast off the foreign rule which had so long pressed hardly upon the Turk and had drained his country of its resources for the satisfaction of foreign debts for whose making the Turk himself was not responsible. Eventually, by means of the agitation undertaken by the Young Turks, organized by the Committee of Union and Progress at Saloniki, a revolution was accomplished (probably with the connivance of the Sultan), a constitution was adopted, a new Sultan took office, responsible government began, and Turkey was thus freed from the treaty obligations made by the older régime, which had given every nation except Germany some obvious interest to defend and therefore some obvious right to interfere. If Germany was to base her scheme of Pan-Germanism upon the control of Turkey, she must certainly control it by means of a government owing its very existence to her. The price of the support of the Turks was to be the autonomy of Turkey in local government, and protection from the interference of her old "friends."
Meanwhile, the Germans diligently investigated the condition of affairs in the Balkans, in Morocco, Persia, Egypt, and India. They found in all a native party of some considerable strength and vigor, which had already had continuous existence for a decade or more, and whose main object was the obtaining of autonomy and the exclusion of the foreigner. Those parties had been nourished upon the democratic literature of the Occidental nations, had been fired with enthusiasm for self-government by the spectacle of parliamentary and republican government in Europe and in the United States, and, in fact, had assumed that no small share of the prosperity of the Western nations and the greater part of their strength were due to their form of government. The natives saw that it would be profitable and pleasurable for them to govern themselves, or, as a cynic would be more inclined to put it, for them to govern their less progressive countrymen. In these subject countries of Europe, Asia, and Africa, the power so long in control had been alien in race and religion, had long systematically sacrificed the interests of the people to the assumed exigencies of international politics, and had placed upon the country heavy financial burdens for the production of a revenue which the people themselves were not allowed to spend, and for which few natives considered that the people even received an equivalent. In Africa, Asia Minor, and Egypt the majority of the people were Mohammedans, who had long chafed under the control of the Infidel, and who were only too ready to enlist in a movement for a change of government, which would possess the sanction of a religious crusade. The ground, therefore, was ready for the Germans, and the tools to till it were at hand.
In the Balkans, a peculiar admixture of races and religions had produced a singularly complex situation, in which the various forces reacted upon each other with continually surprising results. At the same time, so far as the people themselves were concerned, the two great issues were religious, --the survival of the crusade of the Christian against the Turk, and, on the other hand, of the still older quarrel between the Latin and Greek Churches. From both of these counts, as well as on many national and racial issues, discontent was rife, and could in all probability be turned to political advantage by Germany and her ally, Austria. Above all was this probable because the most evident enemy, the oldest and the worst hated enemy of all the Balkan peoples, was the Turk, whose rule over them had long furnished them with practically the only sentiment they had in common, a vigorous hatred of the Infidel. Now, when Germany should have reorganized Turkey and have gotten the Sultan, and the administration, to say nothing of the army and navy, well into her hands, what would be simpler than for her to permit the Balkan nations to begin this war under her direction, and thus secure their gratitude by the realization of the ideals cherished for so many centuries? Would it not also be easy to satisfy in the most thorough-going manner their oft-repeated demands for the freedom from oppression of their co-religionists in Macedonia and Albania? It seemed highly probable to the Balkan nations that they could not fail to be gainers by an alliance of this sort, and, while they hesitated, like the man in the fable, to admit the camel to their tent, they fully realized that the German offers did not present them the alternative of rejection. Should they not see fit amicably to come to an agreement with Austria and Germany, they would not unlikely run the risk of absorption by force at some future time, when they would certainly not receive such favors as the terms suggested. Like the Trojans, they feared the Greeks even when they came bearing gifts; but, if it was dangerous to accept the presents, it was more dangerous to decline them. Under any circumstances, they did not see that money, munitions of war, military instruction by German and Austrian officers, assistance in the fortification of their own country could be so very undesirable, and it was as clear to them as it was to their new friends that such weapons would be susceptible of more than one use. Indeed, the weapons and instruction were of themselves a guarantee of their new allies' good faith.
In Morocco, the Germans found an even more favorable scene of operations. They learned that the Sultan had governed regularly by forming alliances with part of the tribesmen against the rest. By clever diplomacy and the occasional use of money, he had managed to keep them jealous of one another and prevented their uniting against him. His main dependence, nevertheless, was the existence of an army of mercenaries whose size was distinctly limited by his own poverty. The French had come to his rescue and had provided him with a highly trained force of really remarkable soldiers, sufficiently numerous to keep him in the ascendency. The tribesmen looked upon the presence of the French, therefore, with anything but favor, for they saw that the latter were rapidly making it possible for the Sultan to defy the tribesmen even if united, an eventuality which certainly meant the coming of an era vastly different from the age of license and rapine to which they had so long been accustomed. On general grounds, therefore, they welcomed the advances of the Germans, scenting probably presents of money or arms, and suspecting that the latter might aid them to restore the conditions to what they had been before the French interfered. The rapacity of the Sultan, his anxiety to collect the uttermost farthing due him, the imposition of new taxes from time to time, and, above all, the actual exercise of force for securing obedience gave the tribes only too ample evidence of the excellent basis for their fears. The new French native regiments, moreover, conducted themselves with a license unbecoming soldiers and aroused against themselves the hatred of the people. So considerable was the number of such cases that they formed one of the chief excuses for German interference. Nor did the Germans forget that an army as large and as extraordinary in quality as the French force in Morocco might become a distinct factor in a European war. They would therefore be making no mistake in providing this army with too much work in Morocco to permit its departure.
In Persia also the Germans made good headway. The opposition on national grounds to the encroachments of England and Russia was considerable, but lacked a definite aim and capable organization, and the revolutionary party lacked the necessary money to finance a revolt. The money, the Germans were more than willing to provide in exchange for a reasonable prospect of success. The English and Russians speedily perceived the trend of the German plans, and, as the Baghdad Railway added mile after mile in the mountains of the Caucasus and the sentiment in favor of Persian independence grew more and more outspoken, they realized the necessity of some action. They therefore sent a commission to study the situation, who reported, with grave irony, that the Persians were incapable of self-government, and suggested that England and Russia should interfere to prevent the longer continuance of the existing state of anarchy. In 1907, England and Russia acted in accordance with the commission's recommendations, and two zones of influence were demarcated, one in the north in which Russia should predominate, and the second in the south along the Gulf where England was to be supreme, and a neutral zone between them whose affairs the Persians were to be allowed to direct with such interference as England and Russia combined might see fit to interpose.
The Powers could certainly have taken no step which would have done more to strengthen the German plans. The evident insult to the capacity of the Persians resulted in a national movement of the capable men in the country, who executed promptly, with German assistance, a coup d'état in 1909, by which Persia was entirely reorganized, a constitution adopted, a new Shah chosen, and the administration and finances of the country put into the hands of foreigners, whose experience in government and in business was expected to teach the Persians how to conduct their own affairs, and, what was equally important, to put the new government on its feet financially. The most important of these officials was the Treasurer, an American named Shuster, whose energy, ability, and firm belief in the expediency and desirability of Persian independence, accomplished wonders. To be sure, Germany had not quite looked for the establishment of a firm, well-organized, and really independent national state in Persia; there can be little doubt that she had expected to supplant England and Russia in Persia by means of an ostensible revolution; still, the creation of a Persian government, really strong enough to exclude Russia and England, would be almost as advantageous to her as the exercise of control herself.
Progress in sowing the wind in Egypt and India was also considerable. In both, to be sure, she found a native movement among the Mohammedans favoring Pan-Islam and the exclusion of foreigners, and which was therefore anxious to put an end to English influence and administration. It seems to be exceedingly doubtful whether Germany ever contemplated anything more in Egypt and India than the creation of trouble for England. Certainly, any promises of actual assistance to the malcontents could hardly have carried weight. The knowledge, which she certainly did impart to the leaders, that forces were at work in Europe tending to undermine the English position, that there were European states who believed England weak and who sympathized with the peoples she ruled, that before a not too distant day England might be racked by the torment of a great war in Europe, all seemed to the Hindus too good to be true. It certainly meant that England would be unable to devote all her attention to suppressing revolts in India, and that it behooved them to prepare themselves for the dawning of the day, when they might practically obtain their independence for the asking. This news put vitality into the movement of Pan-Islam. It is not beyond the bounds of probability that German money was an important factor in this vitality, money which she probably borrowed with characteristic nonchalance in London.
By the year 1910, therefore, the work was well under way in all directions for the creation of Pan-Germanism.
THE SIGNIFICANT POSITION OF THE UNITED STATES
ONCE the magnitude of Pan-Germanism dawned on the English and French diplomats, once they became aware of the lengths to which Germany was willing to go, they realized the necessity of strengthening their position, and therefore made overtures to the United States, which resulted, probably before the summer of the year 1897, in an understanding between the three countries. There seems to be no doubt whatever that no papers of any sort were signed, and that no pledges were given which circumstances would not justify any one of the contracting parties in denying or possibly repudiating. Nevertheless, an understanding was reached that in case of a war begun by Germany or Austria for the purpose of executing Pan-Germanism, the United States would promptly declare in favor of England and France and would do her utmost to assist them. The mere fact that no open acknowledgment of this agreement was then made need not lessen its importance and significance. The alliance, for it was nothing less, was based upon infinitely firmer ground than written words and sheets of parchment, than the promises of individuals at that moment in office in any one of the three countries; it found its efficient cause as well as the efficient reason for its continuance in the situation, geographical, economic, and political, of the contracting nations which made such an agreement mutually advantageous to them all. So long as this situation remains unchanged, there is little likelihood that the agreement will be altered, and there is no possibility whatever of its entire rejection by one of the three parties, least of all by the United States.
The United States occupies a strategic position defensively strong, but offensively weak. She is beyond question invulnerable to the assaults of foreign fleets and armies. To be sure, her seacoast is vast in extent and for the most part unprotected. It has been truly pointed out that the Japanese might successfully land an army upon the Pacific Coast, or the Germans land an army in New York or Boston practically without opposition. Sed cui bono? The strategical and geographical conditions of the country on either coast are such that a foreign army would occupy the ground it stood on and no more. The British discovered in the Revolutionary War that the occupation of New York, Boston, and Philadelphia put them no nearer the military possession of the continent than they were before, and that marching through provinces was not subduing them. However seriously the capture of New York might cripple our commercial and railway interests, the difficulty, even at its worst, could be easily overcome by shifting the centre of business for the time being to Chicago, and the possession of New York would certainly not permit a foreign army to conquer the country, even if it were possible for any nation to maintain an army so far from its real base of supplies in Europe. The possibility of invasion is made of no consequence by the simple fact that no foreign nation possesses any inducement for attempting so eminently hazardous an enterprise. The United States possesses literally nothing which any foreign nation wants that force would be necessary to obtain, while, by making war upon the United States, she would certainly expose herself to annihilation at the hands of her enemies in Europe, who have patiently waited for decades in the hope that some one of them would commit so capital a blunder. But this very invulnerability of the United States prevents her from becoming a dominant or even an important factor in European politics. If European nations cannot menace her with armed reprisal or with wars for conquest, she is equally incapable of menacing them. The fact, which has been from her own standpoint heretofore an unmixed blessing, which has allowed her people to beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks, becomes her greatest weakness, once she is filled with an ambition to play a part in the affairs of the world.
Unpalatable as the fact may be, the international situation, the close balance of power between the Triple Alliance and the Triple Entente rather than the position of the United States has made her a factor in international politics. Indeed, if we would be truly accurate, we must admit that the inter-relation of the various parts of the European situation, more even than its delicate balance, makes the United States a factor; for the complexity of the problems of no one group of states, whether in Europe, in the Middle East, or in the Far East, could possibly allow the United States to play a prominent part. In each, the natural antipathies counteract each other. Only the fact that every nation is anxious to maintain or win power or wealth in Europe and Africa and Asia makes the United States of any value to any of them. Indeed, it is only as European questions become themselves factors in the larger problems of India, Morocco, and the Mediterranean that they can concern the United States at all. As soon as European politics became world politics and Asiatic and African problems became European, the United States began to be a factor in their solution. She has, to be sure, no vital stake in any one of these fields. She cannot, even if she would, risk in war the same stake European nations do, her independence; the Atlantic on the one side, the Pacific on the other, defend her more completely than could fleets and coalitions. Nothing short of the creation of world politics by other nations could make the position of the United States of consequence at all. The most vital fact, however, about the European situation is that no nation possesses the same natural allies in all parts of the world. England and France are one in opposing the extension of German authority in Europe; but nothing short of their extreme danger in the Mediterranean at the time of the Crimean War and the perils to which they have been exposed in Europe since the Franco-Prussian War has buried the enmity resulting from deadly strife in America and, especially, in India. Russia is the firm ally of both England and France in Europe; she is their deadliest foe in the Black Sea, in Persia, India, and China; yet, to oppose Germany, we see Russia and England amicably enough uniting in the Near East. Germany must secure French and English aid to defend herself permanently against Russia on the east, but finds her natural allies against Russia her greatest competitors in trade, and the most determined opponents to her expansion on the west. Nevertheless, at the very moment that we find Germany and England ready to spring at each other's throats in Europe, we see them guarding the railway to Pekin together and acting in concert about the Chinese loans.
The variety of the interests of these nations makes it impossible for them permanently or entirely to trust or distrust each other. England, who needs Russia's aid in Europe in the Near East, cannot act too determinedly in opposition to Russian advance in Afghanistan and Manchuria. Germany, whose quarrels with Hapsburg and the Pope fill the history of the Middle Ages, must have their assistance to protect herself in Europe. In all this the United States has unquestionably no part. Not her strategic position, not her military strength, but her economic position makes her an ally particularly indispensable to England and France. Not their economic position but her desire for colonies, her ambition to play a part in the politics of the world, makes an alliance with England and France indispensable to the United States. But she can enter world politics only with the consent of European nations.
The economic position of the United States in the modern world is commanding. Her area is so vast and its productivity so great, her natural resources so nearly unlimited and so great in variety, that scarcely a country in the world, one had almost said no continent in the world, can hope to rival her. While her population is not yet numerous enough to make her dangerous, it is none the less amply sufficient to render her in potential military strength one of the greatest of civilized countries. She possesses, in fact, precisely what England and France lack --- almost inexhaustible natural resources; arable land almost without limit; food sufficient to feed all Europe; great deposits of gold, copper, iron, silver, coal; great supplies of cotton sufficient for the Lancashire cotton mills; in short, she possesses the very resources needed to make the economic position of England and France fairly impregnable. Allied with her, they could not be starved into submission nor bankrupted by the lack of materials to keep their looms running. In addition, she possesses the second greatest steel manufactory in the world, which owns the patents and secret processes upon which Bessemer steel depends, a product surpassed for war materials only by the Krupp steel. The width of the Atlantic effectively prevents any interference by European Powers with the continuance in time of war of her agricultural and industrial activities. Whatever happens in Europe, she can continue to produce the raw materials and finished products they need, and, what is more important, she will furnish them in time of war a huge market for the sale of such manufactured goods as they can continue to make.
The United States, furthermore, is the third financial power in the world. Not only is her wealth vast, not only is her surplus capital considerable, but the organization of business has, most fortunately from the point of view of international politics, concentrated the control of the available capital for investment in the hands of comparatively few men. The trusts, the banks, and the insurance companies have made available for investment huge sums, only less in size than those controlled in London and Paris. It is highly essential that Germany should not be allowed to establish relations with any such capital. It would provide her with precisely that financial backing which she needs. At all costs the United States and Germany must be kept apart. England, too, is anxious to turn this capital into her own colonies, and is willing and anxious to invest her capital in the United States, for both would gain from this mutual dependence, and each would furnish the other fields for investment on whose reliability they could both depend. The English are naturally anxious to shift their investments from Germany to some country where they will not be exposed to destruction by war or to confiscation based upon war as an excuse.
Fortunately for England and France, the United States, whose economic assistance is positively imperative for them, finds their assistance equally imperative. In the first place, the United States depends upon the English merchant marine to carry her huge volume of exports, and, should she not be able to use it, would suffer seriously, even if the inability to export continued only a few weeks. Again, a market as certain and as large as that of England and France for her raw materials and food is absolutely essential to her, and the outbreak of a war, which might close those markets to her, would precipitate unquestionably a financial crisis, whose results could not fail to equal in destructiveness the effect upon private individuals of a great war. The United States has come to realize, as have other nations, that there are many ways in which a modern country can be forced to suffer which are as deadly and, in many cases, more deadly than invasion. Furthermore, she needs a market in England and France for her own manufactured goods, and has grown to depend upon receiving from them in return many varieties of manufactured goods. She simply cannot afford to take any chances of losing her markets in those two countries, nor has she ceased to hope for privileges of some sort in the English and French dependencies, which other nations do not have, and which, should worst come to worst, she could undoubtedly obtain from them as the price of her continued assistance. It is perhaps no exaggeration to say that the prosperity of the United States so much depends upon the preservation of her relations with England and France that in time of war only an alliance with them would save her from almost certain bankruptcy.
England and France, however, expect to retain the alliance by permitting her to fulfill her ambitions for control of the Gulf of Mexico. Ever since the days when Louisiana was first purchased, the men of the Mississippi Valley have dreamed of the extension of the sway of the United States over Central America and the Gulf. Aaron Burr's expedition aimed probably at the creation of an empire out of the Mississippi Valley and Mexico. The Mexican War was certainly fought in the expectation that valuable territory in the Gulf might be acquired into which slaves might profitably be carried. When the war failed, a filibustering expedition led by Walker, with connivance of the authorities at Washington, was intended to secure for the United States possession of one or more of the Central American countries. There was also the scheme, in whose existence the North believed previous to the war, for the conquest of the whole Gulf of Mexico and the creation there of a slaveocracy whose wealth and independence could easily be assured by the production of cotton, sugar, and tobacco. All these schemes met a determined resistance and interference from England and France which invariably proved decisive. Nor could the United States hope to take possession of lands separated from her coast by water, with which she could communicate only by sea, so long as the English fleet controlled the seas and she herself possessed no fleet at all. The Clayton-Bulwer Treaty was intended to prevent the acquisition of influence in Central America by the United States without England's consent, and mention was specifically made of a canal across the Isthmus of Panama. The interference of Germany in Venezuela, the evident fact that the concentration of the English fleet in the Channel would make it impossible to keep a sizable fleet in the Gulf of Mexico, the absolute necessity from many points of view of preventing the acquisition by Germany of land in South or Central America, removed the objections England and France had hitherto possessed to the extension of the influence of the United States in the Western hemisphere.
There was, furthermore, a likelihood that Germany would in some way attempt the annexation of the oldest of European colonial empires, held at this time by one of the weakest and most decadent of European states. The Spanish colonies in the Gulf of Mexico and in the Philippine Islands possessed not only commercial but strategic importance. The wealth of Cuba and Porto Rico was proverbial, the products of the Philippines considerable, and, though not altogether suitable for colonization, they would afford Germany undeniable opportunity for expansion. Moreover, Cuba in the hands of Germany would rob Jamaica of all naval importance and might actually permit Germany to overrun the whole Gulf. The Philippines as a matter of fact controlled one whole side of the China Sea and contained valuable seaports, where a naval base could be established, safe from assault by the Chinese or European nations. The islands were thus ideally fitted to become Germany's base of operations in the Far East. To allow such places to fall into her hands might entail consequences whose far-reaching effect no statesman could possibly imagine. Nor was there the slightest guarantee that by an unprovoked assault Germany would not attempt to take possession. At the same time, the general European situation and the position of Spain in the Mediterranean made it impossible for England or France to undertake a war with her, without setting fire to a train of circumstances whose eventual results might be even more fatal than those they were attempting to prevent. The colonial aspirations of the United States, her anxiety to share in the opening of China to European enterprise, her traditional hope of securing control of Cuba, all pointed to her as the natural guardian of the interests of the coalition in the Gulf of Mexico and in the Far East. Whether or not it is true, as some assert, --- a view to which certain events lend probability, --- that the Spanish-American War was created in order to permit the United States to take possession of Spain's colonial dominion, certainly such was the result of that war. To be sure, the relations between Spain and the United States were already strained; popular sentiment was aroused by the conditions in Cuba, and, if the war was "created," it was not a difficult task. Certainly, Germany and her allies suspected that such was the purpose of the war, and attempted to secure a general agreement in Europe to interfere in Spain's favor. England, however, whether because she saw its advantage now the war was in existence, or because she had caused it to be begun, decisively vetoed the suggestion of interference, and her control of the sea made action without her cooperation impossible.
The results of the war were all that could have been hoped for. The Triple Entente saw the Gulf of Mexico fall into friendly hands and the establishment in the Far East of a friendly power in the strategic point of greatest consequence. From Germany's point of view, the results of the alliance between England, France, and the United States were exceedingly discouraging, and the aftermath of the war proved even more decisive than the war itself. The United States promptly undertook the peaceful penetration of Mexico and Central America. Large loans were made to the governments and secured by a lien on the revenues; American capital rushed thither, and the number of enterprises financed or owned by Americans increased so rapidly that at the present day the United States, or its citizens, owns practically everything of importance in the Gulf, and is waiting only for a favorable opportunity to foreclose its mortgages. The possibility of German interference has been reduced to nothing. The United States also proceeded, not improbably by agreement, to create a fleet large enough to maintain control of the Gulf of Mexico and, what was of more consequence, to maintain control of the Atlantic highway between Europe and America in case of European war. The English had come to realize the improbability that enough of their fleet could be spared to patrol the seas in the event of an attack upon their forces in the Channel or in the Mediterranean. Above all, the United States undertook to create in the Philippines a naval base of sufficient size and importance to permit the maintenance there of a fleet large enough to be a factor in the Pacific. England and France obviously could not spare enough ships to maintain a fleet in the Far East; Japan would not tolerate the presence of a Russian fleet in those waters; the United States was the only member of the coalition who could, consistent with her own safety or that of other nations, undertake the creation and maintenance of such a fleet in the Far East. She became, in fact, the offensive arm of the coalition in the Pacific, and promptly strengthened her position by annexing the islands between her shores and Asia available for settlement or coaling-stations. She must not only prepare the way for the further extension of the coalition's power in the Far East, but she must prevent the acquisition by Germany of colonies, whose location or development would interfere with the control of Eastern commerce by herself and her allies.
One more thing the United States undertook, which England and France had hitherto denied her permission to do, the digging of the Panama Canal. The canal would furnish the United States with a new waterway to the East, shorter than the route she had hitherto been forced to employ via Suez, and with a route which would literally put New York in actual number of miles nearer China, Australia, and New Zealand than was London. Thus to admit the United States to the trade of the Far East by a waterway exclusively in its control, England had not hitherto considered expedient. The creation of Pan-Germanism, the fear of an attack on the English route through the Mediterranean and the Suez Canal, the possibility of the closing of that route temporarily or permanently by some naval disaster, reconciled England to the creation of the Panama Canal, because she saw in that waterway a new military road which she could use to her own possessions in the Far East, and which the Atlantic Ocean would effectually keep out of the hands of Germany. To be sure, it would not be as short a road to India as that through the Mediterranean and Suez; but so far as Australia and New Zealand were concerned it would not be longer; and all such objections inevitably were reduced to insignificance by its incomparable safety, so long as the English fleet could hold the seas at all. So long as the United States and England combined could maintain control of the Gulf of Mexico and of the islands in the Pacific, so long would this waterway be absolutely safe. If, then, Germany should succeed in executing the whole of her stupendous plan, England and her allies might still be able by means of the Panama Canal to contest with her the possession of the trade of the East. Especially would this be true if the United States should be able to maintain herself in the Philippines. Nor have the English lost sight of the incomparable importance of the Philippines for keeping Germany out of the Celebes. If Germany should move upon Holland, the coalition expects to take possession of the Celebes without further ceremony, and will then hold a position controlling the trade routes leading from India to China and Japan and to Europe in general, which would be as nearly impregnable as anything of the kind ever yet known in the world. The issues, therefore, with which the United States is actively concerned are vast; the importance of her adhesion to the side of England and France cannot be overestimated, and her possible part in the movements of the next two decades is certainly one which ought to satisfy the most ambitious. She holds in the East already a position second only to that of England, and should the European nations succeed in their plans of final interference in China, the United States, as the offensive arm of the coalition, might be called upon for prompt action of the most aggressive sort.
At the same time, after all has been said, it must be admitted that the United States is as yet only a potential factor in the international situation. Unless further aggression should be attempted in the Orient, or it should become necessary or expedient to change the nominal control over Mexico and Central America to actual possession, the United States will take no important share in hostilities, but will confine her efforts to the exceedingly important work, both to her allies and to herself, of keeping open the Atlantic highway and of protecting the merchant marine of England. Nor need one underestimate the importance of this task, for, should she fail to do her share, destruction might result for all concerned.
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