Peace and Settlement
WHEN men and nations begin to quarrel, they usually do so with limited and clearly seen aims. As the quarrel goes on, these aims expand, and each side demands larger results as the fruits of the victory it expects to obtain. This is the case in the present war, particularly with the Entente Allies, who, in spite of many disappointments and reverses, have never for a moment abandoned the belief (converted to certainty by the action of the United States) in their ultimate triumph. While their statesmen have always kept before them the primary objects for which they entered the conflict, their views have widened as time has gone on. The moral, as well as the strategical, field of operations has been extended, as they hold, and as they are justified in holding, much more by the proceedings of the enemy than by their own.
It was the prevailing opinion in England at the outset that the serious fighting would almost be confined to the eastern frontier of France, the western frontier of Russia, and the coastal waters of Germany and Great Britain. In the autumn of 1914 we should have laughed at those who predicted that by the spring of 1917 hostilities would be waged over all the seas of the world, and that the troops of the rival alliances would be engaged in battle in Lithuania and Macedonia, on the Tigris and on the road to Jerusalem, as well as in Flanders and Galicia. The political extension has been as great as the geographical. Who, in London or Paris, would have anticipated that American liners would put out from New York, armed fore and aft, to resist the armed vessels of one of the European belligerents, or that China would take even a passive part in the struggle? As well expect intervention from the planet Mars! And again, how many of us could have supposed that the discussion of peace terms would involve the rights and aspirations of Czechoslovaks, Ruthenians, and Jugo-Slavs — peoples whose very names were unknown to the majority of persons in Western Europe?
So, however, it is. The war has raised problems much larger, and much more intricate, than the difficult, but relatively simple, factors from which it originated. It is no rhetorical flourish to say that the whole future, not only of Europe, but of civilized and uncivilized humanity, is involved; and that the readjustment of international values is no less essential to the continued progress and well-being of the world than the termination of the present agony of slaughter and tribulation. The Allies contend that they are fighting, not merely for the military, but for the moral and political, success which would be the only adequate compensation to their peoples for the sacrifices and sufferings of the past three years, and the best means of securing them and all nations against a recurrence of the calamity.
We must recognize that the war, in the stage it has reached, is being waged for two classes of objects — one class directly connected with its origin, the other more remote and less easy to define with precision, though not on that account less important. These primary and secondary objects are intermingled in the various official documents and statements which have been issued with reference to the tentative proposals for peace negotiations, such as the Allied Reply to the German Note of December 12, 1916, the Reply to President Wilson (January 10, 1917), and the British Foreign Secretary’s Dispatch of January 17. It is necessary to distinguish them. President Wilson, in his Note of December 18, 1916, in his Address to the Senate on January 22, and in other documents and statements, has shown that he keeps them logically apart in his own mind. I am not sure that he has always been quite successful in the expression of his thoughts, owing to his preference for abstract and generalized terms; and it was perhaps for this reason that some of his earlier phrases, such as ‘peace without victory,’ were misunderstood, and in some degree resented, not only in the Entente countries, but also, so far as I can judge, in his own, till he dissipated all doubts and uncertainties by the magnificent directness and fervent lucidity of the memorable Address to Congress on the second day of April.
But the distinction on which Mr. Wilson dwelt in his December Note is fundamental and must be clearly apprehended. It is that between these primary and secondary issues of the war, or, as one may call them, the practical and moral problems which await solution in and after the settlement. And I think it may be taken for granted that the distinction is not ignored by the statesmen of the Allied governments, though it may not have suited them to emphasize the point in the controversial diplomacy which is really part of the ammunition of the campaign. The intelligent and disinterested onlooker may argue with more precision and more regard for general principles than is tactically wise for combatants whose energies are absorbed in the task of overcoming a still undefeated adversary.
The primary purposes for which the leading members of the Entente group engaged, or became engaged, in war can be briefly stated. France fought in sheer self-preservation, for she had no positive ground for quarrel with Germany, and only the flimsiest pretence was alleged by her assailant. Russia took up arms in the attempt to protect Serbia from forcible absorption by Austria; Great Britain went to war to secure the liberation of Belgium, and to assist France in repelling an entirely unprovoked attack upon her territory. The Italian case is more complicated; but whatever the underlying sentimental motives for her action in the spring of 1915, her astute Foreign Minister, Baron Sonnino, was careful in his correspondence with Vienna (see the Italian Green Book, passim) to base it exclusively on the violation of the Triple Alliance treaties by the Austrian aggression in the Balkans. The cession of the Trentino was demanded, not because that district is part of Italia Irredenta, but as ‘ compensation’ which Italy had a right to claim for the breach of international conventions. Belgium and Serbia, of course, did not go to war and did not want war, and only struggled ineffectually to resist the armed violence of the invaders.
The righting of these wrongs is, and always has been, the‘irreducible minimum’ on which the Allies must insist to the utmost limit of their strength. England must eat her boot-soles rather than consent to make peace till Belgium is liberated; France must bleed white till the last German helmet is driven from her frontier; Russia will be disgraced and dishonored if she lays down her arms till every Austrian soldier has left Serbian as well as Russian soil; Italy will suffer intolerable humiliation if the ‘unredeemed’ territory does not pass into her hands. If the Allies do not exact these terms, it will be only because they cannot. Unless their power is completely broken, by sea and land, they will not even consider a peace which is not based upon these conditions as the sine qua non. This is accepted as outside discussion in the Entente countries. It is also, I presume, understood in Germany and Austria. The rulers of those empires must be aware that they cannot have peace without the withdrawal of their armies and officials from the occupied and invaded territories. They know this must be done, and it will be done. The open question is whether they will be forced to drop their booty through exhaustion and defeat, or whether their armies and U-boats may not still compel their enemies to bargain for the withdrawal.
Such, then, were the objects which the Allied states had before them at the outbreak of the war, and if hostilities had terminated in their favor within the first six months, it is conceivable that they might have been content with them. But as the war went on, the programme lengthened out, and the Allied claims have expanded. France wants the restoration of Alsace and Lorraine, a share of the captured German colonies, and a Syrian protectorate; Great Britain, besides the German colonies she has occupied, will keep hold in some form of Mesopotamia and the Sinai peninsula; Russia has ear-marked Constantinople and the Straits, and will not let go of Armenia; Italy claims Trieste, Istria, the Dalmatian Islands and the eastern coast of the Adriatic, with some foothold in Asia Minor as well; Serbia expects to consolidate under one government all the ten or twelve millions of Jugo-Slavs; Roumania would like to take over the Wallachs and Roumans of Transylvania and Hungary.
There are other and bolder, or at least more novel projects, such as the reintegration of an autonomous Poland, the creation of a Czecho-Slovak state in Bohemia and Moravia, and the release of all the Arab people from Ottoman rule. Beyond and above all, the European Allies require, as America does, some guaranty for the peace and safety of nations, and security for ‘ the rights of mankind ’ against the excesses of militarism and autocracy. It is no longer a case of obtaining redress for specific wrongs. The Allies are out now for the reform of international relations and for the territorial reconstructions and redistributions which they regard as essential if this result is to be achieved.
The Central governments and their champions declare that in resisting the consummation of these plans they are fighting in self-defense, for they urge that the Allied scheme menaces their existence. But the Allies have no wish to imperil the existence, or to lessen the prosperity or the political and personal security of any individual German, Turk, Austrian, or Bulgar. They recognize — indeed they insist — that a people is entitled to work out its own destiny and mould its own constitution; but it must not do so at the expense of any other peoples, whether within its borders or without. But if by ‘existence’ the Central Powers understand the unaltered maintenance of the present administrative and territorial system of Europe, then they are warranted in asserting that this would be endangered by the victory of their opponents; for here the Allies do certainly hope, and undoubtedly intend, if they can, to bring about extensive and deep-reaching changes.
That conviction was of slow growth in Britain. It was forced home by the events of the war, and by a closer study of its origin and causes. As the conflict developed, Englishmen began to discern more clearly its moral and political implications. We went into the fight cheerfully, confidently, only half awake to its meaning; and many weary and disheartening months elapsed before we grasped the full magnitude of our task and the fuller significance of what lay beyond it.
It was the extension of the military operations to the East, which touched the political instinct of Britain. When first Turkey, and then Bulgaria, joined the Central Powers, when one great stretch of eastern or southeastern territory fell under Teutonic occupation or control, when Germany was flaunting her possession of the Berlin-Bagdad route, Englishmen became conscious of the true nature and formidable possibilities of the Teutonic Drang nach Osten — the drive toward Asia and Africa. Their sentiment of Empire was roused: and they saw then that, not their oversea dominion alone, but their maritime and economic interests, and their insular security, were directly menaced by the German aims.
Those aims had been hinted at clearly enough by the Prussian publicists and political professors before the war; they have been avowed with unflinching candor since the autumn of 1914 by some of the most influential of them. The vague generalizations of such writers as Bernhardi, and the vaporing chauvinism of Reventlow, are supplemented by the considered statements of economists and statisticians like Rohrbach, Delbrück, Naumann, and List, who work out with logical precision the theory and practical results of the new Germanic imperialism.
If we are to believe them, Germany plunged into war, and impelled Austria to precipitate the conflict, primarily with an eye to the East. They tell us that the fixed goal of her policy, clearly perceived by her soldiers and diplomatists since the fall of Bismarck, and seen in glaring relief by the Kaiser from the outset of his reign, has been to find ‘breathing-room,’ and scope for politico-economic exploitation, by making herself the mistress of a great empire or confederacy lying across Central Europe, the Balkan region, and Asia Minor, and stretching from the shores of the North Sea to the Persian Gulf. Her secondary object is no doubt still larger, for it includes the idea of a more extensive Oriental dominion, with vast subject territories in Africa, the overthrow of the British power on sea and land, and the political hegemony of the Old, and perhaps also the New World.
But this further design was only indirectly involved in the present war, in which it was not expected that Great Britain would participate. The calculation was that rapid and crushing victories over France and Russia would weaken those powers so gravely that they would oppose no further obstacle to the Germanic projects; that Germany would then, with Austrian assistance, obtain the desired mastery in the Balkans and Western Asia; and the great united Central Empire, striding across two continents, with its strategic and political strongholds, at Berlin, Vienna, Belgrade, Constantinople, Damascus, Bagdad, and Ispahan, would become an accomplished fact. Rotterterdam, Antwerp, Cairo, and Tangier, and perhaps Shanghai, Delhi, and Bombay, could wait. The ‘ settlement ’ with Britain, peaceful or not, would come later, after the military and economic resources of the new confederacy had been developed. It was, then, a war, not so much for territory, as for routes of communication and spheres of influence. To open and hold the BerlinBagdad line was the main purpose; the push to Calais, Paris, and Petrograd, the submarine campaign, and the seizure of Belgium, were subsidiary to this enterprise.
If the peace leaves her in a position to carry the Eastern scheme through, Germany, according to this school of thinkers, will be satisfied. She will have won the war: at least, the substantial fruits of success will remain with her; even though she may be driven by negotiation, or by the armies of General Pétain and Sir Douglas Haig, to relinquish all she has grasped at in the Western area. The strategists of Berlin and Potsdam are told that they may be well content if they are left with the opportunity to work out the plan of ‘ Middle Europe ’ and its implications, and thereby to prepare for that ‘ Second Punic War ’ which will crush the modern Carthage and rivet upon the world the imperium of the New Rome.
This thesis is maintained without disguise by the authors to whom I have referred. Paul Rohrbach, the clearest expositor of the ‘ Eastern ’ policy, who believes that ‘ Germany, Austria-Hungary and Turkey are by nature and by historical development the triple alliance of the Twentieth Century,’ wrote in his Deutsche Politik last November to show that the English must be very foolish if they supposed they could rest content with a ‘drawn war,’ This, he said, from the English point of view, is ‘a piece of lazy and confused thinking’; for ‘ if the Central Powers, with Bulgaria and the Turkish East, form a solid political block across the Balkans, then it is no longer possible for England in the future to conduct her worldpolicy on its traditional lines.’ If, he adds, the English wish Egypt and India to remain unassailable they must ‘ defeat us to such an extent as to sever our connection with the East.’ If England fails to do this, ‘ she will have lost the war.’
Rohrbach’s co-editor, Ernest Jäckh, puts the case even more plainly: —
The war comes from the East; the war is waged for the East . . . the road is clear but not for Russia to Constantinople, nor for England and France to Sofia, but for the foundation and strengthening of Mitteleuropa. Until now we were connected by a single slender thread —the Hungaro-Serbo -Bulgarian railway line; from now on we have a wide network of communications to secure our connection. Besides BelgradeSofia there is Kronstadt—Bucharest, and between these parallel lines the whole breadth of Serbia and Roumania. Formerly Constantinople-Bagdad and Constantinople— Suez depended on the same slender thread; now a whole network of railways secures these further extensions also, alike in their economic, political, and military aspects.. . . This is already a war-gain, as also is the securing of the Danube route, which latter must remain a peace-gain whatever may be the eventual fate of Roumania. The Danube has become ‘ Central-European ’; it belongs to the Quadruple Alliance of Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, and Turkey, who together have fought for it and won it.
Another of Rohrbach’s disciples, Max Seber, stretches the boundaries of ‘Middle Europe’ a little wider, and takes it to the Red Sea and Northern Africa: —
Only her Turkish possession [ihr türkischer Besitz] secures to Germany the freedom of movement which she needs in order to become a World-State. . . . If Germany wishes a colonial empire, with land connections, with Mitteleuropa and the Turkish federation, if she wishes a real guaranty for the freedom of the seas, she must not leave Egypt or the Suez Canal in English hands.
Englishmen do not need to be told that the realization of this plan is inconsistent with their most vital interests. But critics in other countries may be less affected by this consideration, and may be inclined to judge the Mitteleuropa scheme on its merits. Why, they may be disposed to ask, should not the great industrial state of the European Continent give the benefit of its own superior organizing efficiency to the less advanced, but potentially rich, countries of the South and East? Why, without repressing their national life and local freedom, should it not enable them to develop their enormous latent resources and bring them into line with modern progress? Why should Asiatic Turkey stagnate in semi-barbarism, and the Balkan regions languish, when there are German engineers and capitalists ready to equip them with railways, roads, canals, river-steamboats, factories, and mining-plants, under the direction of German commissioners, and under the ægis of a German central government? Why should not the world be enriched by the creation of another great federation or confederacy of states that would cover some of the most famous and fertile regions of the earth, and redeem large populations from poverty and decay?
The answer is that a Mitteleuropa organized and controlled by the Prussian ruling group would be a grave danger, not merely to Britain but to the world. The German ‘colonization’ of Turkey was not seriously resented, so long as it could be supposed that ‘pacific penetration’ was the main object. This was the attitude even of English statesmen; and notwithstanding their nervousness about the Persian Gulf, they were willing to accept, and in the end even to facilitate, German action in Anatolia and Mesopotamia. In the summer of 1914, only a few weeks before the outbreak of the European war, a treaty between Great Britain and Germany was signed, with reference to the Asiatic enterprises of the latter power.
The text of this instrument has not been published; but its general purport has been made known by Rohrbach, who describes it as extremely indulgent to the pretensions of his country. ‘We were,’ he says, ‘frankly astonished by the concessions made to us; especially,’ he adds, ‘in regard to the Bagdad Railway, Mesopotamia, and the navigation of the Tigris,which exceeded all expectations.’ He infers that England was genuinely anxious to remain at peace with Germany, and was inclined to regard her as a friendly coadjutor in the development of Nearer Asia rather than as a jealous rival. The British Foreign Office had apparently convinced itself that Germany’s aims in this quarter of the world were purely economic; it does not seem to have taken List and the other German imperialist writers (if it were acquainted with them — which is doubtful) at all seriously, and was blind to the vast political ambitions which lay be hind the transportation and financial projects.
But the war has opened men’s eyes. We know now that Mitteleuropa, with its southeastern adjuncts and dependencies, would not be a peace-power but a war-power, the greatest war-power of all. Germany with her 70,000,000 of inhabitants, Austria with nearly 52,000,000, Turkey with 21,000,000, Bulgaria with 5,000,000, would be inside the ring-fence, and Roumania, Greece, Serbia, and perhaps Poland, though temporarily excluded, would be eventually forced in by irresistible economic and political pressure.
The new confederacy would start with an area of over a million square miles, and a population of nearly 140 millions which might soon approach the two-hundred-million limit. Its military strength would be unrivaled. Modern warfare on the largest scale demands, as we have now learned, not only immense numbers of men trained and equipped as soldiers, but also a gigantic and varied industry mobilized to supply war-material in prodigious quantities; financial resources and credit assessed in billions of dollars, and capable of prompt realization; facilities of the best kind for the rapid movement of huge masses of men and stores; the means of provisioning, not the fighting forces only, but the civil population, with food, clothing, and raw materials; and, finally, a supreme executive authority to concentrate the energy of the entire organism, and direct it swiftly upon the point where its impact can be most effective.
No state, or combination of states, could come so near to fulfilling these conditions as Middle Europe with the mastery of the Nearer East. With its reservoir of Germans, Austrians, Magyars, Turks, Bulgars, Southern Slavs, Arabs, Kurds, and Syrians, the Potsdam General Staff could in a few years have an immense multitude of soldiers drilled, trained, and equipped to one model. At the outbreak of hostilities it could spring at the throat of its adversaries with seven or eight millions of mobilized troops and a dozen additional millions in reserve; all able to be turned east, west, or south at the will of a single High Command, and poured swiftly along a magnificent net-work of railways radiating from one centre along the inner lines of Europe and Asia. It would be self-supporting and self-contained; and when the mines and lands of its subject territories were developed to their full capacity, it could produce enough food, iron-ore, copper, tobacco, petroleum, wool, perhaps even cotton and rubber, to sustain its civil population, its armies, and its industries. It would be nearly independent of sea-borne supplies, and would suffer little from the most rigorous blockade. But the new power could hardly be blockaded. With its harbors and naval bases on the Baltic, the North Sea, the Mediterranean, the Adriatic, and the Ægean, and with its gigantic metaliferous and mechanical production, it could so multiply its U-boats and extend the range of their activity that hostile navies and mercantile shipping, belligerent or neutral, would be driven from the seas. Maritime commerce would be paralyzed, while the railwayborne trade of the great continuous land area under German domination would flourish more briskly than ever.
Such a power could render all Europe subservient to its will, and would be formidable, not only to Asia and Africa, but to both the Americas as well. Only the very greatest political associations could deal with it on anything like equal terms. This, indeed, is a prospect which Naumann faces calmly. Obsessed, like many of his countrymen, by the cult of bigness, of mere material size and numbers, he holds that the day of the small nation is past. He contemplates that the destinies of the world must be at the disposition of the real ‘Great Powers, ’ the aggregate of states and nations which are large enough and strong enough, or could be strong enough if they pleased, to wage war under the modern conditions. These are the United States, the British Empire, Russia, and Germanized ‘Middle Europe.’ In the fullness of time China may be added unto them, if the countrymen of Confucius should assimilate the higher civilization sufficiently to institute conscription and manufacture 15-inch guns. The minor, that is the less extensive and less populous, countries will be swept into the orbit of these more massive systems, which will be kept in some sort of harmonious relationship by a mutual respect for one another’s armaments. A world balance of power, maintained by the four or five imperialisms, will supersede the balance of Europe, which will have disappeared, since there will be no effective make-weight on that Continent to the overwhelming might of the Teutonic partnership.
There is nothing in this picture which can appeal to American or British sentiment. The people of the United States and the United Kingdom have no desire to give a wider extension to the armed diplomacy of the European balance of power, which could not avert, and helped to produce, the existing cataclysm. A world kept in precarious peace and unstable equilibrium by four or five monarchical federations or imperialist republics, drilling troops, building battleships, and piling up munition works against one another, would not approach their ideal. They want to weaken, and if possible to eliminate, the element of militarism and competitive force in international relations, instead of giving it ampler scope. A world balance of power, with the menace of war as its ultimate sanction, will do nothing to promote that ‘community of power ’ which President Wilson seeks to establish, founded on the recognition of equal rights among nations and an international code of ethics.
The German Drang nach Osten is therefore inconsistent with the general interest, European and extra-European, and it must be the aim of the Allied governments to see that it is checked. In this war it has already achieved a temporary success. The programme sketched by the German imperialist writers has been almost fulfilled. If peace had been made last autumn, by negotiation, on the beati possidentes basis, the Germanic-Turanian confederacy would have come into being. Poland, Austria, Roumania, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Turkey had been amalgamated or annexed. If she were allowed to keep her southern and eastern conquests, Germany, it was believed, would have been willing to quit Belgium and France, and surrender most of her colonies. It would have been a profitable transaction, for the reasons given above; so profitable for Germany and so disastrous to everybody else, that the Allies were bound to fight on till they could defeat it.
They have made a tangible step in this direction since the Kaiser’s ‘peace offer’ of December 12 was rejected. The British successes in Mesopotamia have turned the Drang nach Osten from one of its goals. The Berlin-Bagdad line is blocked well in front of the terminus; Germany has no access now to the Euphrates estuary, and across her path will be thrown the stiff barrier of an independent Arab nation under English guardianship. On the west, a Syrian state, under Anglo-French protection, will fend off Turkey and Turkey’s overlords from the Red Sea and the African isthmus; northward, an autonomous Armenia, supervised by Russia, will lie like a bastion on the road into Persia.
One large part of the Eastern scheme is nullified already; much of the remainder goes to wreck when the Allies refuse to make peace with the Central Powers unless they evacuate Serbia and Roumania. These two states lie astride the German and Austrian landline eastward, and unless they are subjugated or annexed they can prevent it from being used as an instrument of Teutonic political and military domination.
But it is not enough to defeat the Prussian project of Empire in its present guise; it is necessary to provide that no similar or cognate scheme shall become realizable by the exercise of force, and that the factors which have offered an opportunity for militarist activity shall be eliminated. As the Allied governments point out in their Note of December 30, there can be no stability in the European states-system until the prime causes of unrest are removed. That unrest is the inheritance of an unhappy past. All Central and Southeastern Europe has for centuries been perturbed by the fact that political and national boundaries do not coincide, so that, in a large part of this area, populations with a keen racial, religious, or linguistic self-consciousness, find themselves under alien control. Frenchmen, Danes, Poles, Ruthenians, Czechs, Slovenes, Roumanians, Serbs, Bulgarians, and Greeks, have been governed against their will by Germans, Magyars, Turks, and Russians. The malaise is felt most poignantly in Austria and the Balkans. It has been aggravated by the fact that an unscrupulous armed force was always lying in wait to take advantage of the confusion.
‘The main condition,’ says Mr. Balfour, ‘which rendered possible the calamities from which the world is now suffering, was the existence of a Great Power, consumed with the lust of domination, in the midst of a community of nations ill prepared for defense, plentifully supplied, indeed, with international laws, but with no machinery for enforcing them, and weakened by the fact that neither the boundaries of the various states nor their internal constitution harmonized with the aspirations of their constituent races, or secured to them just and equal treatment.’
The Allied statesmen hold that this ‘international unrest,’ and the opportunities it offers for a resort to violence, can be remedied only by the reorganization of Europe ‘ guaranteed by a stable régime, and based at once on respect for nationalities and on the right to full security and liberty of economic development by all peoples, great and small, together with guaranties against unjust attack.’ As means to this end they specify ‘the restitution of provinces formerly torn from the Allies by force or against the will of their inhabitants’; the release from alien dominion of Italians, Roumanians, Serbo-Croats, and Czecho-Slovaks; and the liberation of the subject populations of the Ottoman Empire.
These clauses imply the restoration of Alsace and Lorraine to France, and of the Trentino and Gorizia province to Italy. They also suggest a very extensive reconstruction and redistribution of the territories now under Austrian and Turkish rule. It has indeed been pretty widely assumed that nothing less is meant than a complete disruption of the one Empire and the extinction of the other. In the belligerent countries it has been freely asserted that this is the definite intention of the Entente governments, and that they do not propose to lay down their arms until these ends have been attained. In this case the war would cease only when they were in a position to drive the Turks, as rulers and officials, into Asia, to incorporate the Serbo-Croats of Austria-Hungary with the Serbian kingdom, to detach Transylvania from Hungary and hand it over to Roumania, to annex Galicia to Poland, and to establish in the heart of Europe a new independent Bohemia for the nine or ten millions of Czechs, Moravians, and Slovaks who are now subjects of the Hapsburg Empire or the Magyar monarchy. Austria by this drastic process would not cease to exist as a political entity; but it would lose nearly two thirds of its inhabitants. It would be left with its German provinces, which would probably in that case welcome annexation with the northern Teutonic Empire, and with its Magyar partners, who might imitate their Slav neighbors in setting up as a completely separate and independent kingdom.
But are all these startling changes in the map of Europe really to be deduced from the terms of the Allied Note? It is conceivable that its authors may contemplate securing justice and liberty for their clients of the depressed nationalities by methods less revolutionary than that of strewing Central Europe with new or newly compounded kingdoms and republics. And, even if that ultimate purpose lies before their minds, it may be doubted whether they are resolved to achieve it as a condition precedent to the conclusion of the present war. Do they mean to fight on till Austria-Hungary has agreed to evisceration and Turkey to exile and imprisonment in Anatolia? If they do, then a speedy termination of the war can scarcely be expected; for however weary and dispirited the Austrian, Hungarian, and Turkish governments may be, they will naturally fight to the last gasp to avert the sentence of political execution. Germany’s allies may be chafing over the misfortunes that Germany has brought upon them; but they will be reluctant to abandon her if the only prospect before them is that of still heavier humiliation and loss.
Moreover, the plan of reorganizing Europe is one that cannot conveniently be drafted amid the heat and hurry of a campaign. It involves many complex problems which need to be solved with deliberation and forethought. Such a project, for example, as that of the revival of the mediæval Kingdom of Bohemia demands close examination. The new state would not be homogeneous, for it would include some two or three millions of Germans and Hungarians. It would be imbedded in the centre of Europe, with no natural frontier on the south and east, a busy industrial country cut off from the sea, and with no outlet except through the territories of powerful and jealous neighbors, able to stifle it by economic pressure, if not to subdue it by arms.
Again, the Greater Roumania would include a considerable Magyar and Saxon population, probably superior in wealth, energy and political capacity, to the Moldo-Wallachian majority.
Greater Serbia, too, impinging on one side on the plains of Hungary, and either cut off from the Dalmatian coast by Italy or brought down to that coast to create a new Italia Irredenta, would present difficulties; as would the restitution of Alsace-Lorraine: for though the Germans may be forced to yield unconditional assent to the cession of a district which includes their richest supply of iron ore, it is not quite certain that all the inhabitants of the two provinces would favor the transfer. A few years ago — the war may have produced a change — a good proportion of the Alsatians would have preferred autonomy within the German Empire to incorporation with France.
Nor is the extermination of the ‘bloody tyranny of the Turks’ 1 quite simple to accomplish. The Turk is a bloody tyrant when he rules subject peoples, and after the Armenian massacres there is little to be said for him. But nine millions of Turks will have to live somewhere, and it is not at first sight altogether obvious where they are to live without interfering with somebody.
These difficulties must be recognized. Problems so delicate and obscure cannot be satisfactorily solved by roughand-ready disruptions, expulsions, and redistributions; nor does it seem probable that the Allied ministers will be anxious, without mature consideration, to destroy political aggregates which have at least cohesion and firmness of texture, in order to set afloat a group of loosely built experimental small states, swimming in the European whirlpool in dangerous proximity to the great sharp-toothed empires; at least until some effectual measures have been devised to render ravenous fangs and unruly claws incapable of mischief. Nor might they care to saddle themselves with the responsibility of prolonging hostilities until the enemy assents to conditions which nothing assuredly will extort from him but the direst extremity of failure and distress.
For these reasons one may conjecture that the Allied governments will divide their European settlement into two parts, and decline to complicate the immediate and urgent question of bringing the war to a successful close by associating it with these larger problems of reorganization. It may be that, for the former purpose, they will confine themselves to what I have called the ‘ irreducible minimum.’ If the Central Powers sustain, and recognize that they have sustained, military defeat, the Entente may offer them peace on the basis of the ‘restitutions and reparations,’ which are, for the Allies, the primary objects of the war. They will insist on the evacuation of the invaded countries and provinces; on some compensation and indemnities for the injured parties; on the freedom and neutralization of the Turkish straits; on the cession of the Trentino to Italy; on the recognition of Arabian and Armenian independence; and on such guaranties as it may be possible or politic to exact against a renewal of militarist aggression. But they will also demand from the vanquished empires an agreement to submit the wider questions of national rights and territorial readjustment to a post-war conference, and a pledge to abide by its decisions.
If this procedure be adopted, there would be hope of concluding the war as soon as the Central Powers can be brought to recognize that they have lost the game, and are therefore ready to make the concessions without which it is impossible for the Allies to lay down their arms. It would not be necessary to protract the struggle until Germany and her chief partner are, not merely defeated, but so utterly exhausted and crushed to the earth that they will be compelled to surrender unconditionally. And the reorganization of Europe would not have to be conducted according to a plan drawn up in haste by belligerents flushed with victory, and imposed by them upon a vanquished, but sullen and resentful foe.
In this scheme the active concurrence and participation of the United States will be essential. The Allies cannot be expected to discuss the post-bellum settlement with their adversaries unless they are assured that the moral, and if it be required, the physical force of the American Union will be available to support the mandate of the Conference. America is engaged, without reserves, in the war; and when the war is over, she can hardly coöperate in the ultimate settlement with limited liability. She must be a working partner, not merely a benevolent onlooker, and must be prepared to bear her full share in the responsibility for creating and upholding international arrangements that will release Europe, and, by consequence, the world, from disturbance by organized violence.
If that course is taken, the ideals to which the President has given expression in his notes and addresses may become realities. The Conference, sitting after the war has been concluded, may be able ‘to accomplish the greater things which lie beyond its conclusion.’ It will endeavor to settle those questions of nationality and territory which promote European unrest. It will determine the status of Constantinople and its adjacent territories and waters, and that of the Turkish population in Europe and Asia; it will ascertain the best measures to secure the safety, freedom, and social and cultural development of the small states and subject peoples of Central and Eastern Europe; it will prescribe the limits and constituents of the new Poland; it will find a modus vivendi, both economically and politically just, for Italians, Austrians, Magyars, Serbs, Greeks, and Albanians, on the Adriatic littoral and hinterland.
But it may do much more than this. It may hope to make ‘those ultimate arrangements for the peace of the world which all desire,’ to institute a machinery of consultation and legislation for the adjustment of disputes between nations, to guarantee protection to the weaker units against aggression; and it may even take the first steps toward the substitution of an international police for the forces which are at the disposal of national ambition. If it cannot hope to extinguish war, or abolish armies and navies, it will seek means to render the future conflicts between hostile groups less perilous to the world at large, and less likely to impose their ravages and burdens upon others. It may find a fresh formula to cover the freedom of the seas, since both Britain and America have discovered that maritime warfare, waged with the new science and the new unscrupulousness, can become sheer anarchy and piracy, rendering all the waters of the globe unnavigable for neutrals and belligerents alike. It may develop the principle of the ‘community of power,’ and establish an International League to maintain (in the noble words of the President’s historic address) ‘the universal dominion of right by such a concert of free peoples as will bring peace and safety to all nations and make the world itself at last free.’
These are great and splendid objects, too comprehensive to be compassed in a peace settlement concocted amid the turmoil of conflict, in an atmosphere heated by passion, animosity, the sense of triumph, the smart of defeat. But some at least may be capable of attainment in a Congress of the Nations, assembling after the glare of the strife has died out of the horizon, with the United States throwing all its strength and influence into the council-chamber, and manifesting a clear resolve to render the decisions effective.
- ‘L’affranchissement des populations soumises à la sanglante tyrannie des turcs’ is the phrase in the French text of the Allied Note; which is translated in the official English version in the above elegant manner. — THE AUTHOR.↩