The Fundamentals of the Situation
I HOPE that I have shown, in my last article, what the real, deep-seated reason is of the successes that the Germans have achieved over the Allies. We have seen that, while the Germans are past masters in burglary and murder, who, in committing these thefts and other crimes, employ the most highly perfected material resources, the most thorough study of chemistry, and the most ingenious mechanical inventions, they are equally far advanced in the purely intellectual domain, which enables them to derive from the four fundamental political sciences — geography, ethnography, political economy, and national psychology — important practical results. Now, the Allies, having even at this moment no comprehension of the extraordinary potency of these invisible forces, are making no use of them. The result is that, notwithstanding their vast resources, they are still in a much less advantageous condition to contend with the Boches.
Our deductions have led us also to define the ‘strategy of the political sciences’ and the integral strategic equation which makes its application possible. This equation contains six unknown quantities: military, naval, geographical, ethnographical, politicoeconomic, and national-psychologic. The facts established by three and a half years of war prove that it is absolutely indispensable to find these six unknown quantities before undertaking any operation capable of exerting an appreciable influence on the general development of the war. Indeed, the present amazing and perilous state of affairs is susceptible of this explanation which summarizes all others: the general operations of the Staff at Berlin have been planned and carried out in accordance with the strategy of the political sciences. On the other hand, the operations of the Entente have been conducted in such utter ignorance of this strategy, that none of them could reasonably be expected to succeed.
It is of supreme importance for Americans to understand quite clearly the fundamental cause of the strategic errors of the Entente. Indeed, such a clear understanding is the only means by which the United States can avoid sacrifices in men and money infinitely greater than are necessary. I shall, therefore, treat this part of my subject by appealing to the unmitigated truth, without regard for other considerations.
THE THEORY THAT THE WESTERN FRONT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT ONE
I propose to show that, as a matter of fact, all the strategic errors of the Entente are derived from this: that the Western front has been regarded as the most important front. The first source of this idea is the incredible but undoubted ignorance of the Pan-Germanist scheme on the part of the leaders of the Entente. This ignorance is a phenomenon which I set down, but which I cannot explain.
The Pangermanist scheme dates from 1895. Since then it has been elaborated in Germany in thousands of lectures. Innumerable pamphlets, spread broadcast, have made it familiar to an immense majority of the sixty millions of Germans. Moreover, it was for the reason that this scheme was carefully devised a long while beforehand that the Germans became earnestly desirous for its execution, and, generally speaking, went cheerfully forth to war, believing, doubtless, that it would be short, but firmly convinced that it would bring them enormous booty — a bait which has always set the Germans in motion from the beginnings of history.
Now, in spite of the extraordinary publicity of the Pangermanist scheme throughout Germany for twenty-two years, the guiding spirits of the Entente did not believe in its existence during the first two years of the war. I agree that this seems incredible, but I receive constantly so many new proofs of its truth that to doubt it is impossible.
This ignorance has had this result; that the Allies have failed to realize that Germany made war, before all else, to make the Hamburg-Persian Gulf plan an accomplished fact, and that that achievement, by reason of its inevitable consequences, would suffice to assure Germany of the dominion of the world. It is this failure to grasp the real war-aim pursued by Germany, which explains why the supreme importance of the Danube front — which was the key of the war, which the Allies had in their possession, and which it was relatively easy for them to retain — did not receive serious attention while it was time. At the opening of hostilities, and even for a very long time thereafter, the leaders of the Allies were convinced that Germany was fighting to rid herself of France, and especially of England. France and England therefore undertook simply to fight Germany and Austria-Hungary, very little importance being attributed to the action of the latter. Practically then, notwithstanding the important part assigned to Russia, the war was regarded, at Paris and London, as a sort of prize-fight, in which one of the two chief adversaries — either the French and British or Germany and Austria —would fall within the ropes.
This quasi-’sportive’ idea of the war was particularly prevalent among the British. Having in reality no military traditions, they regarded the conflict as a gigantic boxing-match, in which the best ‘slugger’ would necessarily be the victor. So it came about that to the British the war was, and perhaps still is, solely a matter of endurance. On the other hand, once the war was begun by Germany, the question of Alsace-Lorraine inevitably came to the front for the French. Must she not be set free first of all?
For these diverse reasons, the French and British were inclined to argue that the chief theatre of operations was necessarily where the chief adversaries were, and, at the same time, to all appearance, their principal and mutual interests—that is to say, in the West. This conviction once formed, this consequence was deduced from it in London and Paris, namely, that the Balkans and Turkey could have no serious effect on the result of the war; that it was not only useless, therefore, but positively dangerous, to send a considerable force to the East, because the principal front — that in the West, where everything was destined to be decided — would thus be deprived of the benefit of armies which the Entente, taken by surprise by the war, had been obliged to raise and equip in haste, and had no right to send a long way from home. But it is evident that the Western front could not be the principal one from the Allies’ standpoint — the one, that is to say, on which to bring about a final decision. For, ever since the day when it was demonstrated that fortified fronts, which can be very rapidly increased in depth by trenches, deep shelters, and barbed-wire entanglements, cannot be quickly pierced, — a demonstration which was almost absolute in October, 1914, — it has been contrary to common sense for the Allies to hope that they could obtain on the Western front a victory so overwhelming as to compel Germany to abandon the Hamburg—Persian Gulf idea. But this controlling point of view was unheeded — a perfectly natural consequence of the Allied ignorance of the Pangermanist scheme.
However that may be, the theory that the Western front is all important has been repeatedly laid down by Colonel Repington, the military critic of the London Times.1
Finding myself compelled, in order to make more clear my indispensable demonstration, to show how far Colonel Repington has gone astray, and what infinite harm his errors have done to the cause of the Entente by reason of the mighty influence of the Times, which is almost a national organ, I conceive that no sinister motive can be attributed to me if I make, by way of preamble, this statement. I was one of the first Frenchmen who favored the Franco-British rapprochement, at a time when public opinion in my country was opposed to that policy. To the powerful Times, which has many a time assisted me in propagating my ideas, I am most grateful. To me personally, therefore, it is really distressing to take issue with one of its chief collaborators. But according to my honest belief, Colonel Repington, because of the extraordinary influence of the organ in which he writes, has been instrumental in leading the Allies to commit errors in strategy which have cost millions of men and endangered the issue of the war. I feel, therefore, in duty bound to call the attention of the Allies to the immense amount of harm done by Colonel Repington. His constantly repeated forecasts have this characteristic in common, that for three years and a half they have been most strikingly falsified by events.
But the Repington peril still exists. In fact, even to-day a large number of Allied newspapers continue to reproduce his forecasts because they appear in the Times as coming from one having authority, although any sort of credit should long ago have been denied to him. But his failure to reason from indubitable indications and the most notorious facts seems to be complete, if we may judge from certain passages in an interview on the general condition of affairs given by the colonel to Le Temps, October 10, 1917.
The situation [declared the military critic of the Times at that late date] is that the Boches are getting the worst of it except in Boche communiqués, and that they know it. Moreover, every time that we go into battle they are beaten. ... Our losses are slight now because we are proceeding according to the plan of an offensive with a limited objective. . . . Our victories are almost automatic. . . . Italy and Russia still have very strong effective forces. . . . Russia? Yes, she is passing through a serious crisis, but we must not lose confidence in her. Russia is a jack-in-the-box, and the winter is working on her side.
Less than a month after these statements the Italians suffered a serious disaster, Russia went to pieces, and Roumania was reduced to impotence. Now, these disastrous events might very easily have been forecast several months before, with the help of the frequent and accordant intelligence from Italy and Russia. But Colonel Repington has been so hypnotized by the Western front that he has consistently refused to give any weight to what was going on in the rest of Europe. We proceed to trace the chronological development and the influence of his theory.
At the end of August, 1914, Colonel Repington set forth his own conception of the most important front when he described the part to be played by the Russian armies on the one hand and by the Franco-British armies on the other, disclosing at the same time his idea of German strategy. I quote from Le Temps of September 1, 1914: —
We must fight, even if we have to fall back to the Atlantic, without allowing Germany to overwhelm us. It is absolutely indispensable for her to have her Metz and her Sedan, and a long war would be disastrous for her with her largely industrial population, her business paralyzed, her coast blockaded. Her entire strategy is based on these considerations, and it should be our aim to bring this plan to naught and to fight with all our strength, without endangering the welfare of our people by brilliant coups which would expose us to attack.
It is fear that is behind the present German tactics, — the vandalism and the policy of terrorizing the civil population; it is fear — not physical fear, but fear of the consequences to her if France and England were not quickly and completely crushed.
Russia, for her part, is performing the function of a ‘steam-roller.’ Her role in the war is most important, and final triumph depends in large measure on the way in which she carries it out. The Franco-British armies have diverted the main hold of the German armies from Russia, and while the Allies operating in France keep their claws in that bulk, Russia must take advantage of the opportunity.
The results obtained by her thus far indicate that such is her purpose.
Taking into account the season of the year and its natural concomitants, Russia should reach Berlin within two months; if, at the end of that time our claws are still buried in the mass of the German armies of the West, and if Serbia has succeeded in maintaining until then her hold on the Austrians, the strategic and political object of the war will have been attained.
These lines expose very clearly the germ of the theory of the main front afterward developed by Colonel Repington. According to his idea, the Franco-British armies must ‘operate in France,’Russia playing the part of ‘steam-roller,’ moving forward slowly but surely in such wise as to reach Berlin in two months. It is evident from these words that Colonel Repington is the inventor of the phrase, ‘Russia, the steam-roller.’ Events have shown the value of this metaphor. The passage quoted proves in addition the error of Colonel Repington as to what military Russia really was, as to the condition of the Russian fortresses in 1914, and as to the very different condition of the German armies and fortresses at that same time.2
As the ‘steam-roller’ had not arrived at Berlin in November, 1914, according to his forecast, Colonel Repington gave the final touch to his theory of the main front by publishing the following in the middle of 1915, when the question arose of sending Franco-British troops to Serbia: —
What we must do is kill Germans until the German losses mount up to ten thousand daily. If we accomplish our task, we shall make final victory inevitable. What we must avoid are adventures which might give Germany an opportunity to secure important strategic successes, as at Ulm and Sedan.
The war of attrition, in the trenches, on both fronts, is extremely burdensome; there is nothing inspiring about it, but it must kill Germany in the end if it is kept up.3
The Allies having followed Colonel Repington’s advice and sent no troops to the Danube, the attack on Serbia was begun in October, 1915. At that time energetic action on the part of the Allies in the way of sending to Serbia, by way of Saloniki and by the Santi Quarante route, sufficient reinforcements might still have saved the greater part of Serbia and thus have maintained the Allies in a position to recover the Danube front. Thereupon Colonel Repington reiterated with singular vigor his theory of the main front as opposed to the dispatch of Allied troops to the rescue of Serbia.
No new units [he said] have made their appearance in the East or the West for several months. It may well be true, therefore, that Germany has not the necessary men to create such units. Under these conditions our manifest duty is to persevere on the main front, that is, in Fiance and Flanders. That is where the final decision will be had, and nothing on earth would justify us in withdrawing troops from there. We must send thither all the men and all the munitions at our disposal, in order to kill the greatest possible number of Germans.
The Germans are still capable of holding out against Russia, and of massing more troops against us. What a plight we should find ourselves in if, at such a time, our forces in the Western theatre had been reduced! The responsibility would fall, not on the army, which has fought so superbly, but on those who have the supreme management of the war.4
These vigorous arguments had a tremendous influence on British public opinion, and Serbia was abandoned to her fate. Furthermore, still as a result of his theory of the main front, Colonel Repington afterwards, whenever he had a chance, made the bitterest opposition to the dispatch of the Allied expeditionary force to the Balkans. As he found important supporters in France, the army at Saloniki is still without sufficient means of action.
However that may be, Colonel Repington’s campaign in support of his disastrous theory that the Western front is the most important one has produced such far-reaching effects that it has influenced men occupying very high official positions. For example, early in October, 1917, General Smuts, a Boer officer, unquestionably of great valor, but, by reason of his foreign birth, having never been in a position to study the vast complexities of the European war, in a speech at a luncheon given by the President of the Chambers of Commerce of the United Kingdom, a speech of special importance because of his membership in the British War Cabinet, declared: —
‘The Central allies are beaten everywhere, are retreating everywhere, except in Russia. . . . To whip Germany we need not go as far as the Rhine. To effect this purpose one strip of land is as good as another, so long as the Germans choose to occupy it; and, take my word for it, long before we have reached the Rhine, Germany will sue for peace. . . . Our military superiority on the Western front is no longer open to the slightest question. . . . If we turn to the Italian front, can we entertain any doubt, after the great victories of the Italian army, that our Allies on that front have obtained a complete preponderance over the Germans? ’
A few days later events proved the value of these assertions. As General Smuts had several times announced that Germany was virtually whipped, the Weekly Dispatch did not hesitate to make the following truly stupefying comment on these statements: —
‘When so circumspect a soldier and statesman as General Smuts declares that we have won the war, we can assume that there are good and sufficient reasons why so bold an assertion proves that we have won it.’
Comments of this description unfortunately do not stand alone. For three years and a half a number of Allied newspapers have reproduced declarations of men of more or less prominence, about as valuable as those of General Smuts, as being undeniable truths. As a result, very great harm has been done, for Allied public opinion has been misled by men of unquestionable sincerity, who are, nevertheless, incapable of forming an accurate judgment of the situation because they have never been trained for it, and because they do not know a hundredth part of what it is necessary to know in order to make a prophecy of any value.
It is because of these divagations that a forest of false ideas has been nurtured among the Allies like a carefully tended garden, until in December last the majority of newspapers proclaimed the victory of the Entente at the precise moment when the Pangermanist schemes were on the point of fulfillment.
Be that as it may, the aberration caused in numerous controlling councils of the Allies by the theory of the Western as the principal front has gone so far that, even after the Italian catastrophe, when Germany was already master of three fourths of Europe, Major Sir Philip Sassoon, M.P., private secretary to Sir Douglas Haig, in a letter to his constituents, reiterated this theory, declaring that the outstanding facts of the war are not the momentary collapse of Russia and the invasion of Italy, but the steady, inexorahle advance of the British armies in Flanders, which neither the enemy nor the weather conditions can check. At that time Major Sassoon believed that the British advance on Cambrai would prove to be irresistible and continuous. A few days later, the German counter-attack, and the serious British losses which resulted from it, gave the lie once more to forecasts of this sort.
On the occasion of Major Sassoon’s amazing letter the Socialist journal L’Humanité, which often indulges in Utopian conceits, published so accurate a summary of the doctrine of the principal front at the end of 1917, that I deem it my duty to quote it.
‘Don’t be alarmed,’ say the partisans of Occidentalism, or Repingtonians, ‘by the confusion and backsliding of Russia. Don’t ascribe too much importance to the invasion of Northern Italy, Serbia, Roumania — there is no use in stopping to talk about them. All this is of no account. The absolute definitive victory we shall win on the Western front, or, more precisely, on the British front. The irresistible advance of the British army in Flanders will give it to us. The occupation by the enemy of Poland, Lithuania, and Courland, of Wallachia and Venetia; Riga captured, Venice within cannon-shot of the Austro-German lines — all this is of no account in comparison with the taking of Passchendaele (a small village in Flanders). Why unify the conduct of operations, when there is but one operation of any importance?’ — Such is the doctrine. It has never varied.5
CRITICISM OF THE THEORY OF THE PRINCIPAL FRONT
As for the reasons given to justify this theory of the principal front by its partisans, they are all summed up in this statement, which, however, has never been supported by any technical evidence. ‘This is a war of attrition. As the resources of the Allies are inexhaustible, they can certainly hold out much longer than the Germans, who are the besieged party. We have only to establish ourselves more and more strongly on the Western front. As the Germans cannot remain in a state of war indefinitely, they will be compelled to attack us. Consequently the Kaiser’s troops will have, perforce, to come and be killed on the Western front. It is a mathematical certainty, therefore, that a time will come when we shall have inflicted upon Germany losses in manpower so prodigious, that, finding herself to be bled white, she will sue for a peace every condition of which we shall be in a position to impose upon her. At that moment we shall be completely victorious without having been compelled to cross the Rhine, as we have many times declared.’
Such is, in reality, incredible as it may appear, the ominously puerile and prodigiously rudimentary reasoning which has been the sole basis of the management by the Allies of this complex, world-embracing war; whereas the Germans in carrying it on act consistently according to some plan or other, but always one that has been studied in every part of the Universe without exception. In truth, this theory by which the Western front is regarded as the principal one does not deserve even to be considered as a strategic plan at all, for it rests upon an accumulation of such gigantic blunders that it would seem impossible that they could have been committed, were we not constrained to admit their reality by facts that are only too manifest.
Let us remark first of all that this theory is strictly opposed to the fundamental principle of warfare as established by military history from its most distant origins. This immutable principle may be stated thus: While supporting one’s allies to the utmost, to carry the war into the enemy’s country, at the weakest spot, with superior forces. Now, the theory that we are considering has had the following results: —
1. It has prevented the Allies from carrying the war into the enemy’s country, and has confined the most frightful struggle in history to the richest and most densely populated territory of Belgium and France.
2. It has compelled the Allies to abandon the hope of striking their enemy at his weakest point, which was beyond question the southern line of Hungary.
3. It has led the Allies to concentrate their most powerful forces against the strongest portions of the German front, where the German Staff could most easily manage the most stubborn defense, by virtue of the vast network of railways that it controls in the West.
4. It has abandoned successively to the Pangermanist Moloch such admirable, gallant, and loyal allies as the unhappy Serbs and Roumanians. Such abandonment not only was an unpardonable moral error on the part of the Allied leaders, but also consummated the substantial strategic blunder of the Entente. For, by an extraordinary chance, the territories of Montenegro, Serbia, and Roumania were, and still are, strategically considered, the key of the world-war, because they form the natural Danube front, the mere possession of which by the Allies deprived Austro-Germany of the aid of the Bulgarian and Turkish effectives, and of the resources of the Orient, without which it could not have continued the war. Therefore, by supporting with vigor their small Balkan allies, the great Allies would not only have fulfilled their moral duty, but would also have forwarded their essential strategic interests, and the war would long since have ended victoriously.
Now, the sole obstacle to this logical development of the military efforts of the Allies has been the theory that the Western front is the principal front. Consider the huge blunders, even of a strictly military description, which have resulted from this disastrous theory, and one can readily understand that it makes no account of the strategy of the political sciences, the existence of which is not suspected even at the present moment by the supporters of that theory. Let us note once more that it is based by them upon a long succession of material misconceptions. Events have proved that Colonel Repington’s reckoning of the German reserves was erroneous. Furthermore, in his calculation of the enemy’s forces, Colonel Repington has never dealt seriously with the AustroHungarian, Bulgarian, and Turkish effectives, which, however, do exist and whose support enables Austro-Germany to keep the field.
Failing to take into the account the total military effectives of Pan-Germany, Colonel Repington has neglected also to consider the resources in supplies and raw material of this vast territory. But these resources, because of the effect of the submarine campaign, are to all intent greater for the Boches — or, at all events, more readily accessible and transportable — than the resources of the Western Allies, who cannot live now without America and Australia, that is to say, without articles of prime necessity brought from a great distance by slow, infinitely burdensome, and uncertain means of transport.
Lastly, if it had been true that Austro-Germany, blockaded by land, — the Allies being on the Danube front,— would have been in effect a besieged fortress inevitably doomed to capitulate by reason of the insufficiency of food-supplies, — because, in fact, the resources of Austro-Germany alone would have been insufficient for its population, — on the other hand, it was utterly absurd to regard AustroGermany augmented by the Balkans and Turkey (that is to say, Pan-Germany) as a fortress susceptible of being reduced by starvation. Pan-Germany to-day is in very truth a fortress, in the sense that it is encircled by continuous fortified fronts; but it is nonsense to liken Pan-Germany to a fortress having necessarily to surrender because of famine, when, by virtue of its geographic immensity, including the vast exploitable territories of the Balkans and Turkey, it affords the most diverse products of the soil. And the latent resources of Pan-Germany are immeasurably increased now that the whole of European and Asiatic Russia is open to it.
To sum up — the theory that the Western front is the principal one is the capital strategic blunder of all the Allied leaders, and it explains all their other blunders. The facts are at hand to prove that it was impossible to conceive of any general plan for the conduct of the war by the Allies which would have made it easier for the German General Staff to carry out the Pangermanist scheme. For, from this point of view, the theory has had the following further results: —
1. It has allowed Germany to lay hold freely of the territories necessary for the creation of Pan-Germany.
2. It has given her all the time that she required so to organize Pan-Germany that its military strength should bring about one of its first effects — the collapse of Russia.
3. It has confirmed Germany in the possession of all the sources of troops, supplies, and raw materials existing in the Balkans and Asiatic Turkey.
4. On the other hand, it has deprived the Allies of the sources of strategic strength and of effectives represented by the Balkans and Russia, and has compelled them to seek beyond the Atlantic those things which are indispensable for their subsistence.
5.It has enabled the German General Staff to concentrate all the disposable effectives of Pan-Germany on the Western front, which concentration was impossible so long as the Allies were formidable enough in the East.
Doubtless it is no longer possible to deny to the Western front the title of principal front; but only because there is practically no other now. Clearly it is the principal one for the Germans, because they can beyond question bring about a definitive decision there. But it is of the first importance for Americans to realize fully that the Allies cannot possibly indulge the same certainty. Henceforth the Western front is assuredly not the principal one for the Allies, except so far as it is a question, first of all, of not being hopelessly defeated there.
Thus the first effort of the Allies must be to do their utmost not to be crushed in the West. But will all the successes that they may be able to win in the West suffice to give them the victory — that is to say, to force Germany to abandon her grip on Central Europe and the Balkans, in other words, on the instruments of universal domination? Of course, no one could undertake to say absolutely that it will not be so, but the chances of such a result are exceedingly slender. The facts developed by the war, and the concordant precedents of all military history, enable one easily to convince one’s self that it cannot be so. In fact, Germany not only is proceeding with the organization of Pan-Germany, but she proposes also to exploit Russia, whence she will obtain immense supplemental resources. The means of resistance of the Germans on the Western front must be regarded therefore as augmented in at least as great a measure as the means of offensive action which the Allies will be able to accumulate on that front. Consequently it is, to say the least, extremely doubtful whether the results on the Western front can be decisive for the Allies.
Now, the mere fact that any doubt about it exists is enough to make it the duty of the Allies to take the precautions which wisdom enjoins against this new possible blunder, which this time would be beyond remedy. They must therefore understand that, to win the war, they must enter upon military operations elsewhere than on the Western front. As I hope to show, such supplementary operations are comparatively simple to undertake.
MR. LLOYD GEORGE AND THE WESTERN FRONT
In his reverberating speech at Paris on November 12, 1917, Mr. Lloyd George performed the service of proclaiming aloud the military blunder of the Allies, — which he justly characterized as ‘inconceivable,’ — in having fixed their attention solely on the Western front. I quote the essential passages of this speech which particularly merit the notice of American readers. But I must call attention to the fact that, although Mr. Lloyd George did fully realize the vital nature of the Danube front from the military standpoint, he did not grasp its capital political importance, as is shown by his speech of January 5, 1918, in which he sanctions the maintenance of the integrity of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. I allude further to this speech at the end of my article.
There is one feature of this war which makes it unique among all the innumerable wars of the past. It is a siege of nations. The Allies are blockading two huge empires. It would have been well for us if at all times we had thoroughly grasped that fact. In a siege, not only must every part of the line of circumvallation be strong enough to resist the strongest attack which the besieged can bring to bear upon it: more than that, the besieging army must be ready to strike at the weakest point of the enemy, wherever that may be. Have we done so? Look at the facts.
The enemy was cut off by the Allied navies from all the rich lands beyond the seas, whence he had been drawing enormous stores of food and material. On the east he was blockaded by Russia, on the west by the armies of France, Britain, and Italy. But the south, the important south, with its gateway to the East, was left to be held by the forces of a small country with half the population of Belgium, its armies exhausted by the struggles of three wars, and with two treacherous kings behind, lying in wait for an opportunity to knife it when engaged in defending itself against a mightier foe.
What was the result of this inconceivable blunder? What would any man whose mind was devoted to the examination of the whole, not merely to one part, of the great battlefield, have expected to happen? Exactly what did happen. While we were hammering with the whole of our might at the impenetrable barrier in the West, the Central Powers, feeling confident that we could not break through, threw their weight on that little country, crushed her resistance, opened the gate to the East, and unlocked great stores of corn, cattle, and minerals, yea, unlocked the door of hope — all essential to enable Germany to sustain her struggle.
Without these additional stores Germany might have failed to support her armies at full strength. Hundreds of thousands of splendid fighting material were added to the armies which Germany can control — added to her and lost to us. Turkey, which at that time had nearly exhausted its resources for war, cut off from the only possible source of supply, was reequipped and resuscitated, and became once more a formidable military power, whose activities absorbed hundreds of thousands of our best men in order to enable us at all to retain our prestige in the East. By this fatuity this terrible war was given new life.
Why was this incredible blunder perpetrated? The answer is simple. Because it was no one’s business in particular to guard the gates of the Balkans. The one front had not become a reality. France and England were absorbed in other spheres. Italy had her mind on the Carso. Russia had a thousand-mile frontier to guard, and, even if she had not, she could not get through to help Serbia, because Roumania was neutral. It is true we sent forces to Saloniki to rescue Serbia, but, as usual, they were sent too late — when the mischief was complete.
Half of those forces sent in time — nay, half the men who fell in the futile attempt to break through on the Western front in September of that year — would have saved Serbia, would have saved the Balkans and completed the blockade of Germany.
You may say that is an old story. I wish it were. It is simply the first chapter of a serial which has been running to this hour. . . .
When we advance a kilometre into the enemy’s lines, snatch a small shattered village out of his cruel grip, capture a few hundreds of his soldiers, we shout with unfeigned joy. And rightly so, for it is the symbol of our superiority over a boastful foe and a sure guaranty that in the end we can and shall win. But what if we had advanced 50 kilometres beyond his lines and made 200,000 of his soldiers prisoners and taken 2500 of his best guns, with enormous quantities of ammunition and stores?
THE ALLIED LEADERS FAIL TO CONSULT TEE ‘EXPERTS’
Fundamental strategic errors, then, have been committed. The responsible cause of these errors is very simple. The leaders of the Entente, with the assurance born of their misconstruction of actual European conditions, of which they have afforded so many proofs, deeming themselves sure of their position, have obstinately refused to listen to the few men who are aware of the real object with which Germany entered on the war, and therefore of the means which would permit effect ive opposition to her success.
The same reason explains why Mr. Lloyd George’s speech of January 5, 1918, contains the heartrending contradictions and technical blunders to which I deem it my imperative duty to call the attention of my American readers. If his declarations relative to war-indemnities should be followed by a practical application, France, on the signature of the treaty of peace, would be condemned to absolute bankruptcy, and the value of the French bank-note would vanish with magical rapidity.
On the other hand, the declaration concerning the maintenance of the integrity of the Austro-Hungarian Empire is utterly at variance with the principle laid down by the Allies, that the different races must be permitted to decide freely concerning their own destiny. Now, the Czechs and Jugoslavs want no more of the Hapsburgs or of Austria-Hungary. Why compel them to remain subject to the yoke of Vienna, which, as all those familiar with the Central European problem are well aware, is unable to escape from the grip of Berlin? They know equally well that it is altogether impossible to place the slightest reliance on AustriaHungary, which is not a nation, which is not even a state, but which is, in reality, a system of ultra-reactionary oppression, operating for the benefit of the German-Magyar hegemony of Europe. As for the Hapsburg dynasty, for centuries past it has broken its word as freely as the Hohenzollerns have broken theirs. Not the slightest credit can be given to its signature by any sane person.
On the other hand, if Austria-Hungary is allowed to exist, the promises of integral restitution made by Mr. Lloyd George to Roumania, Montenegro, and Serbia, are valueless, because incapable of fulfillment by reason of the contiguity of the Austro-German mass. Nor has the promise of restitution of Alsace-Lorraine any greater value. Such restitution could not be permanent unless Pan-Germany is definitively crushed, that is to say, unless AustriaHungary disappears.
It is not pleasant to place one’s self in opposition to the almost universal concert of approval which has greeted Mr. Lloyd George’s declaration in the Allied countries; but I cannot consent to conceal a truth of which, in my judgment, it is indispensable for the Allies to be informed. For twenty years I stood alone in proclaiming the PanGermanist peril, and the impending war in exactly the shape which it has assumed. I shall stand alone, if I must, in telling you this: Mr. Lloyd George’s peace terms are either unrealizable or can result only in a terrible deception of the Allies which would cause them to lose the war by making Pan-Germany triumphant.
If the enormous political blunders which I am forced to point out have been committed by Mr. Lloyd George in his peace programme, it is still for the same old reason: he has neglected to consult the real experts, that is, the Englishmen who have given long study to the problem of Central Europe. To consult these men is an absolute necessity, for at this moment there is not in the whole Entente any political leader, any diplomat, who is personally thoroughly conversant with this question of Austria-Hungary, the thorough comprehension of which requires about twenty years of study.
What has Mr. Lloyd George done? He has consulted Sir Edward Grey, Mr. Asquith, and Mr. Henderson, who certainly have never been to Austria-Hungary to make serious investigations. Whereas, Mr. Lloyd George would assuredly never have been guilty of the serious errors that I am indicating, if he had chosen to listen for one hour to the only three Englishmen who, to my knowledge, have given genuine study to the Austro-Hungarian question on the spot, for many months: Sir Arthur Evans, Mr. Seton-Watson, and Mr. Wickham Steed. The last-named gentleman was for ten years before the war the remarkably able correspondent of the Times at Vienna. His service of information was so well organized that it was to him that the French and British embassies applied for information on a multitude of matters, which they were utterly unable to procure for themselves. It is, therefore, contrary to elementary common sense, to say nothing of British interests, not to place the greatest reliance on his opinion as to the proper solution of the problem of Central Europe.
All the foregoing leads us to insistence upon the urgent necessity of this step: to revise the revision of the waraims of the Allies as set forth in Mr. Lloyd George’s programme; for that programme embodies technical blunders which make it either infinitely hazardous or practically unworkable.
It will be enough, I believe for every right-thinking American to know that Mr. Lloyd George made these no less justifiable than alarming statements concerning the strategic blunders of the Entente in November, 1917, or after forty months of warfare; and that in the forty-second month the same Lloyd George was guilty of the technical political blunders which I have pointed out, in connection with the Allies’ terms of peace — this will be enough, I say, to convince every such American that the conduct of the war, and the preparation for peace, so far as it has developed at present as well in the military as in the political aspect, can no longer be tolerated.
One of the greatest services that the United States could render to the Allies in Europe would be to say to them: ‘We, the United States, are determined to wage war to the limit by all the means at our disposal, but we do not propose that our men and our money shall be wasted to no avail. Henceforth the war must be carried on, and peace prepared for, in accordance with seriously considered, and hence truly scientific, plans, as well in the intellectual as in the material domain, and as well from a political as from a military standpoint.’
I am well aware that you Americans, by the very force of circumstances, have much to learn from our military leaders in order to be able to carry on effectively this great war in which you have become involved so suddenly; but you have special advantages over the Allies in Europe, which should be utilized. Your distance from the other side of the Atlantic gives you the necessary interval of space to avoid being hypnotized by the special views of each of the Allies, and hence to see the conflict as a whole, which is most essential. Having never been obliged up to the present time to take sides in European political questions, you have none of the old-time erroneous ideas with regard to them which are held by the Allied diplomats in Europe—archaic ideas which are the initial cause of all the diplomatic set-backs of the Allies. You have therefore nothing to forget. That gives you an immense chance of avoiding many disastrous blunders.
As it is certain that you have no predetermined plan, and as you are seeking honestly the actual truth, you will inevitably find it if you follow the method of your great captains of industry, all of whom know that, in order to accomplish anything important and efficacious in a province with which they are not familiar, they must begin by applying to the ‘expert.’ Of course, the expert is not infallible: he may, like all of us poor mortals, be mistaken; but when he really deserves to be called an expert, be avoids, with certainty, the commission of such monumental blunders as those heaped up by the European Allied leaders simply because they did not realize the necessity of consulting experts. Now, there are among the Allies experts on each of the great questions presented by the war and the peace that is to ensue, who are neither politicians, nor diplomats, nor soldiers, but who must be consulted because they know these questions, root and branch, for the very simple reason that they have studied them long and freely. To be sure, these men are far from numerous, but I declare that they do exist. If you Americans demand that henceforth a call shall be made upon men of real competence, and that there shall be no more discussion about phrases, but solely about carefully studied realities, you will confer upon all the Allies a tremendous service, which will bring us considerably nearer to victory.
All these advantages are peculiarly yours, Americans. If you choose to make the utmost use of them, you will then be, in many instances, in a position to play the part of a beneficent arbiter between the European Allies. Although their leading minds, having been taken unawares, have not conducted the war as they should have done, they are honest, well-meaning men. Your advice will certainly be welcomed provided they feel that it is invariably dictated in the interest of a mutual, decisive, complete victory — the only sort that can ensure peace for many years to come, and save civilization.
- Now of the Morning Post.↩
- I deem myself justified in these reflections because, on page 414 of my book, Le Monde et la Guerre Russo-Japonaise, published in 1906, eight years before the war, I wrote after much investigation in Russia and the Far East: ‘Will Russia become again a great military power? First of all, is the Russian people bent upon it? Nothing is less certain. Putting the best face on affairs, and recalling what happened in France after 1870, we must nevertheless conclude that she will not within ten or fifteen years have become again a great military power, in condition, for example, to take part in really effective fashion in a war against Germany. ’↩
- See Le Matin, June 18, 1915.↩
- Le Petit Parisian, October 15, 1915.↩
- L’Humanité, November 17, 1917.↩