A School for Peacemakers
IT is natural that a scientific or, more properly speaking, a ‘technical’ age should approach the problem of eliminating war from a technical standpoint. The ethical war on war, since before the day of Horace’s ‘bellaque matribus detestata,’ has been too slowly effective, if indeed it has had any results whatever. The announcement of a School of International Relations, to be endowed at Johns Hopkins University in memory of Walter Hines Page, is a signal on the horizon. We look hopefully upon the founding of such an institution as a step toward giving permanent effect to sporadic but worthwhile efforts which have been seen in education for several years.
The scientific probity which will be assured by Johns Hopkins administration may make this the beginning of a laboratory attack upon war as a social disease. It is so described by Mr. Owen D. Young in his announcement of the plan. It is, for that reason, of even greater importance than the simultaneous endowment of scholarships for British students in American schools by the Commonwealth Fund, or the study years for American men and women abroad which Mr. and Mrs. Simon Guggenheim have established. These scholarship funds, after the example of Cecil Rhodes, will increase, no doubt, the precious leaven of men and women in the English-speaking world who can sympathize with lives and ideals outside their native provinces. But the Page Memorial School, if boldly directed, may pass beyond the clinical study of foreign affairs. The method of science, the method of the exact search for truth without regard for any ulterior purpose, may have at last a chance of application to ihe affairs of nations.
The mere hopeful possibility of such study of world politics shows once more the beneficence of the present control of our affairs by the technicians. No one who carefully watches the trend of our political and social conduct can doubt the steadily increasing domination of the engineer. As we insist upon having more and more ‘goods and services’ which only machines can provide, we gradually surrender essential governmental processes to the men who can make and manage machinery. But engineers are dependent upon science. They are not usually scientists themselves, for scientists arc concerned only with the truth and engineers are concerned with control; but they follow science — out of the armory of impersonal data they arm themselves for the conquest, of force and the reshaping of our malleable lives. And since they know how far their own ‘practical’ achievements must depend upon the inhuman questing of the scientist, they support and defend his irreverent and dangerous curiosities.
Somewhere in the long line of the radio enthusiast, the keeper of a radio shop, the manufacturer of radio machines, the laboratory experimenter with radio development, and the physicist who moves freely among theories, someone must, be found who has heard of Herz, and finally a queer and abstract person who comprehends the Herzian t heorizing. That queer person for his esoteric usefulness is protected by the technician in power.
It is perhaps foolishly optimistic to hope that the Page Memorial School will at once make the tremendous forward step of approaching the problems of international politics in disinterested curiosity. But it will be surprising if men of good minds, who are associated in a university with numerous examples of the scientific temper, do not finally become ashamed of jejune generalities, of prejudices and emotions, of guesswork and self-deceit. It will be strange if the young student of politics does not gradually acquire the caution in assertion and the courage in conviction which arc the divine gifts of the true scientist. He will in the end have the serene bravery to prick the balloons of political nonsense and begin to build a structure of political fact out of the minute fragments of which he can be sure.
When that time comes, however, the problems of international politics, even the central problem of scientific control, will not be solved. Our habitually ‘technical’ thinking may lead us into illusory confidence in facts. Truth — the mightiest — cannot prevail until it is acted upon. And politics concerns people. The public is capable of strange hostilities against even the most innocent of the technical applications of science. The first umbrellas in New York were greeted with brickbats. And when science announces a new political hypothesis the first acknowledgment is always a roar from the lions. J. B. S. Haldane has remarked that biological inventions begin as indecencies. One might go further to say that new theories in anthropology have begun as blasphemies. Worse still, inventions in statecraft are certain to begin as treason.
To predict what a scientist will formulate is doubtless the most unfriendly act one can commit against him; but in order to imagine the probable effect upon the public mind of a new theory in politics one must recklessly manufacture an example. Consider, for instance, what would happen if some retiring and comparatively obscure student should deny that national sovereignty must be preserved intact.
Imagine the publication, in a harmless-looking monograph, of something like this: —
‘Since coöperation between national units is the arrangement which mankind as a whole is seeking to arrive at, it is certain, in the light of facts adduced, that some surrender of national sovereignty is a first necessity. This surrender would be of the same character as the abatement of personal liberty which is customarily accepted by every citizen in a legally organized community. The individual citizen may be said to have greater real liberty within a legal community t han would be possible in a condition of complete anarchy, because by surrendering his right to act as he chooses he gains protection from others whose unchecked freedom might very probably endanger his own life or property; but the surrender is made, nevertheless. He submits to having his own claims adjudicated as a price paid for the protection of the lawenforcing machinery. In precisely the same way a nation cannot be protected from the possible encroachments of other nations unless it is willing to abate its national sovereignty in submitting its claims to the justice of some supranational court, and in submitting to the enforcement of supranational laws by supranational police.’
This is not offered here as a scientific truth, and its language is, if you like, a solemn travesty of the terms in which a theory of politics is likely to be set forth. It is not even new; but it will serve as an example. So long as it lies embedded in the gray pages of a scientific monograph it will not cause a ripple, although in our present state the obscure young student might conceivably lose his academic job. Even a ‘popular science’ article in the newspapers, setting it forth in calm words, would probably cause no lynchings or riots.
But — if the technicians are to be believed — they expect to act upon any truths which may be unearthed in the laboratory.
Mr. Young is an excellent, example of the technicians who occupy a dominating position in our present-day affairs, not because he is himself an engineer, but because he exercises administrative control over one great phase of that technical activity. In announcing the plan for the Page Memorial School, Mr. Young is reported to have said: —
‘The Page School will, therefore, achieve three things. First, it will develop a science of international relations; second, it will ascertain the facts, so far as they can be found, on any particular problem; and third, it will produce a continually growing body of men trained in that science and available for service in the fields of education, government, and business.’
If this means anything at all it must mean that those men whom Mr. Young represents — the greatest forces in an industrial civilization — are willing to attempt the control of political action by scientific truth regardless of damage to preconceived doctrines. It is obvious enough that politics should be the application of science to human relations. It is equally evident that such application is neither accomplished nor desired by most men who engage in political activity. The manipulation of technical boards appointed with great show of fair-mindedness to advise the government on difficult questions is painfully well known. ‘Political considerations’ are by definition not considerations of truth.
The purpose of the new school must be revolutionary in the sense of changing the attitude of government toward fact. But can such a revolution be accomplished? Can the forces which men like Mr. Young represent bring about such a transformation of political habits and machinery?
Perhaps. But the difficulties in the way are more than simple ignorance and inertia. There is at least one tendency in American thinking which will run directly counter to this wise courage.
What I have in mind is not the trend toward economic imperialism more or less inherent in industrial development. I believe that the men who think for the enormous powder which is concentrated in technical equipment and capital accumulation are open-eyed enough to check such imperialism if it leads into war. There is not good reason, outside of obstinate prejudice, for doubting the good faith of the men who give large sums of money and their own prestige to advance the study of international relations to the point of eliminating war. If they were entirely self-seeking they would still know the evidence which has been brought to support Norman Angell’s contention that war is a very unprofitable business for industry as a whole. The United States did make enormous sums out of the last war, but that was before it became a combatant. One must see a lack of good sense as well as a Machiavellian subtlety in the business man who supports schools of research for eliminating war in public and plots embroilments behind his office door. It is difficult to believe in such immoral and ultimately futile duplicity.
Nor is the danger permanently great from the self-appointed guardians of our national honor — the sabre-rattlers. Nor do I think the splenetic and vicious intolerance of racial groups and religious sects which has a temporary vogue is likely to affect permanently the stable mind of the nation.
The greatest obstacle to peace is in our growing philosophy of power.
We are a people of fairly active mind. There is a great number of what might be called secondary thinkers, journalists, educators, lawyers, social workers, men of affairs, superior politicians, who, although not gifted enough to contribute new social philosophies, are carrying bricks to a final structure at the behest of a vaguely defined leadership. And they are building a philosophy of power.
They are building a body of doctrine which values life in terms of aggressive achievement, in which happiness is measured in terms of imposing a personality on its surroundings, human and material. This doctrine in its patriotic form means a haughty, intolerant nationalism, fit to find itself a divine mission and accomplish it in blood.
There is no attempt here to prophesy that this tendency will prevail. But it exists; and the outcome, if it should prevail, is reasonably certain.
A popular philosophy of power is a natural rationalization of industrial greatness. It is so much the natural result of our sudden and tremendous technical development that it finds common expression among the technicians who are themselves the protagonists of power. And because it is an extension of their common mode of thought it will be difficult for them, when the time for decision comes, to deny its doctrine in the hope that scientific truth can control political action.
There is nothing essentially vulgar about this philosophy of power. It is being constructed, not by the rabid purveyors of the Nordic myth or any other pseudoscientific intolerance, but by men who are intellectually honest and cautious, men who feel the movement of the national mind and innocently rationalize it in acceptable terms.
Nor does the tendency in its present stage have much concern for the conduct of the United States in relation to other countries. It is busy with domestic problems, such as business and education and sport. How it is working is evident in a conversation I had recently with an educator, a man of wide experience, distinguished position, and noticeably liberal mind.
He was bewailing the high-school youth’s lack of interest in study. But he had his ‘constructive’ programme in mind if not in hand. ‘We find the boy interested and happy while he is driving his flivver,’ he said, ‘because he can step on the gas and feel a sensation of power. What education has to discover is a way to give him that same sense of power in conquering a mathematical problem or a laboratory experiment. He must be shown how he can enjoy a sense of power in overcoming an intellectual difficulty as well as in a simple thing like running a motor-car.’
There is nothing secretly sinister about that conception of education. But examine it for a moment for its implications. Education must find a way of giving the boy a ‘sense of power.’ Is this the same thing as the older idea of giving him a sense of pleasure in effort toward a good end? A sense of power which comes from the throbbing of a motor under your feet can be purchased by anyone for a few hundred dollars. A sense of pleasure in effort toward a good end is not so easily attained and must be paid for in moral coin. But a sense of power in intellectual attainment is a beatitude which falls upon few creatures and usually upon them only after years of intellectual training. It is possible, of course, that my educator friend meant the sense of power which is enjoyed by a child in solving a crossword puzzle, but I do him the honor of thinking he was occupied with a greater illusion. He appeared to believe that a sense of power, a feeling of domination or selfassertion, was possible for any person in any field. It was a good in itself and should be used as the motive of education.
The idea of power over self is so oldfashioned in these Freudian days that no one could have had the hardihood to trouble him by dragging it into the discussion.
Other educators currently take their moral data from games rather than from motoring, but some sort of sport supplies the common object-lesson. And our conception of sport is notoriously a glorification of the winner and his power; talk about effort in a good cause is largely a sop to the defeated, which no one takes very seriously.
This thinking in education is parallel — it may be either cause or effect —• with simultaneous thinking in business, the professions, and all aflairs. The ‘inspiration’ luncheon-clubs talk a good deal of coöperation, but only as a form of power.
This is, as I have said, a natural rationalizing process. We are getting to be more self-conscious, and by the common philosophical process we are finding an ex post facto explanation for our success and making divinities to fit our qualities. We are a powerful people. Almost the whole population of the United States enjoys external and obvious forms of power which are rarely distributed in most other countries and nonexistent in many. Our technicians, employing our natural resources, have given us those blessings. And now we are making power a condition of happiness, as if it had been written, ‘life, liberty, and something over which he can assert himself.’
In that, we are human, and we can console ourselves with the thought that under similar lucky circumstances any other national group would probably have evolved the same standard of values. The power which was in the moral strength, and physical might, and mental adaptability of our pioneer fathers is passed on in the form of developed resources, technical equipment, and plethoric prosperity to the second and third generation. With greater mental subtlety, which comes from weaker sinews and wider learning, the present generation is deifying the unearned increment.
The possibilities of danger in such a tendency do not show themselves so readily in domestic affairs as they may in international politics. A philosophy of power is the rational basis for a ‘chosen people’ myth. It is a philosophic justification for contempt toward peoples of lesser power. It is a spiritual resort for those who are tempted to sympathize with peoples or races standing in our way. Since it makes of personal assertion an absolute good, it will naturally make of national aggressiveness a great and splendid political doctrine.
We were trying to imagine what would happen if the scientists of a new school of political research should construct the hypothesis that the world can never attain peace without a superstate to which each government will surrender a fraction of its sovereignty. They may quite possibly affirm many things very different from this. If one knew in advance what their conclusions or even their facts were likely to be, there would be small reason for putting them to work. But it does not seem probable that they will sponsor the doctrine that, unchecked international aggression by the United States is the world’s assurance of permanent peace. If, while they are studying, we continue to develop our philosophy of power, their first suggestion of any curtailment or repression of our natural tendency to expand will be greeted with cries of treason. This will not be unintelligent patriotism. It will be the logical expression of our guiding standard of values, and no amount of purely scientific thought could prevail against it. If we once get thoroughly into a conquering frame of mind, it will have to wear itself out before any facts repugnant to it can get a hearing.
Our will to power will be as well documented with solemn intellectual justifications as was a German conqueror with Hegel in his knapsack. Our outcry, if it comes, will be a dutiful and honest resentment against a political heresy which threatens our convenient ethics.
It will be a rallying to the defense of human rights and the possibilities of human development whose principles we have learned not from personalefficiency advertisements but from college lecture-platforms.
Such philosophies of power have grown up in nearly all nations which have at one time or another tried to dominate the world. England had such a philosophy under Elizabeth, Spain when she was spreading Europe over America, France before the Revolution, England again in the nineteenth century, and Germany from 1870 to 1918. Whenever a nation has got into such a position, through natural advantages and the weakness of nearest rivals, that it could with some chance of success attempt world-hegemony, it has developed its philosophy of power. It has rationalized the chance at tyranny and domination which luck has given it into a belief in a ‘mission,’ or a ‘manifest destiny.'
The United States is still only partly conscious of its strength. It is almost entirely unconscious of the fact that it is building up a system of thought that will give the color of righteousness to the selfish exertion of that strength. But by the time our honest scientists have assembled and arranged some of the facts concerning international affairs, and the technicians who follow them try to direct our course by those facts, we may have reached a stage of self-deception which will make it impossible for us to see the difference between leading the world into the ways of peace and trying for a pax romana on our own account.
Not even the technician, stiff-minded as he sometimes is, will suppose that the mere citation of a fact can settle a question of conduct. If he is not to be confined forever to dealing with soulless metal and stone, he must know that man moves among his major interests — art, religion, and politics — triple bound in the armor of theories. Man cannot act upon a fact. He must act with a purpose, and purpose involves the evaluation of facts. In politics he will always be guided by synthetic interpretations of facts —by opinions.
Mr. Young in his address on the plan for the new school said: ‘I cry again for facts.’ But he knows, as does any man of affairs, that facts are sterile without comparative evaluations. He instanced the French debt. He said: ‘Right now we find irritation and misunderstanding between two great nations. And why, Mr. President? Because no impartial authority, free from the handicaps of domestic politics in either country, has been able to study the question of the fair amount or the practical method of payment of the French debt.’ But the question is begged in the term, ‘the fair amount.’ What is fair will never be determined by facts, though they be heaped in monographs, charts, maps, statistics, and other evidence beyond the capacity of the most voracious expert. Like a sly stain, opinion colors the mind of any man who approaches facts to find a course of action. It shows itself even in a sincere plea for impersonal truth.
The second purpose of the new school is fundamental, since only the ascertaining of facts and their orderly arrangement can serve as foundation for the first purpose, the creation of a science of international relations. The development of such a science is undoubtedly as near possible as is the development of any other science in which humanity is the material substance.
The quantitative method which has saved the physical sciences from magic and rhetoric, and which is beginning a similar salvation in social studies through the work of such statisticians as David Friday, may in time clear the débris of charlatanism from politics as well. The second purpose is comparatively easy of achievement, and the first requires only the sort of intellectual courage which is still rare, but is found nevertheless in an increasing proportion among physicists, chemists, and their beneficent ilk.
The third purpose, the training of a group of technicians to apply the discovered truths, may follow as a matter of course.
But what I have been trying to show by reference to our growing philosophy of powder is that the task of these technicians, when they try to move us the first step toward scientific control of our international conduct, will be complicated by our tendency to rationalize our national situation into a working theory. When a physicist inquires into the behavior of iron under the influence of heat, he wisely omits any consideration of purposas or motives in either metal or vibration. The iron submits to experiment; and when the technician takes hold the iron submits to use. But in politics, although the scientist may get at truth with his quantitative methods, the technicians will not find that the human material out of which political machines must be made is so impersonally submissive. The question of values, of what goals are to be arrived at, will enter into the behavior of the material.
The establishment of a school which will make the attempt at scientific control of politics is cheering news. But it is not too much to say that politics, international affairs as well as domestic, will always require an irreducible minimum of art for its
solution. Politics is a matter of conduct; and conduct, even for an omniscient being, would still be a matter of art. Mr, Young cites an apposite example of political ineptitude. He says we learned something of psychology from the Washington Disarmament Conference. But, as he says, ‘a few months later, without careful study, without many facts, without restraint, either in act or word, without politeness, the Congress of the United States passes an immigration law under such circumstances as to offend the pride and dignity of a great nation in the Pacific, a nation with which we have every reason to live in peace and friendship.’
But is it to be supposed that any number of facts would have brought, the wisdom of tact into that unhappy transaction?
It comes down to this: all that is generously projected is good, but the technicians that the new school turns out, armed with scientific truth, will be compelled to acquire the art of public persuasion. The first great practical results will not be obtained until they have successfully acquired that art and have used it to establish effective machinery without losing thereby the science which justifies their bid for political control.