Probabilities of War in Europe
WHAT are the probabilities of war in Europe?
First of all, we must take into account the complete failure of the last European war, materially and morally — especially morally. During that war, half of Europe claimed that it was fighting the other half in the name of liberty and democracy. We were told that it would be the last great conflict. We saw, to be sure, the disappearance of the empire of Austria-Hungary, followed by the formation of new states that were called nations, and the end of the Hohenzollern monarchy — these conditions being highly favorable to the cause of peace.
But the failure was complete. Ten million men had been killed, more than thirty million had been wounded, and a considerable part of the wealth of Europe had been destroyed, with pitiable results. Before the war one Austria-Hungary existed — that is to say, one nation composed of widely differing populations — where now four or five nations exist. Before the war there was just the Alsace-Lorraine question, only one piece of contested territory, whereas to-day there are at least nine or ten such pieces of territory. There was only one great absolute monarchy, Russia, and two great authoritarian empires, Germany and Austria-Hungary. The war reduced all Continental monarchies almost to nothing and extended the republican form of government everywhere. Yet liberty has almost completely disappeared. There is red tyranny in Russia and white dictatorship of the most violent, sanguinary description in Italy, Bulgaria, and Hungary. The dictatorships in Poland, Rumania, Lithuania, and other countries are less cruel, but they are all thoroughly bad, and there are a number of absurd, comic dictatorships such as those in Spain, Portugal, and elsewhere.
Not only has Europe been transformed from a creditor continent into a debtor continent, but she is no longer the centre of world power. She is not only in debt — she is discredited. The Great War was chiefly a civil war among Europeans, and all the European countries — vanquished, victors, and neutrals — are weaker than they were before the war.
The least one might have hoped for after the war was a diminution of armaments. As a result of the peace treaties, the four beaten countries — Germany, Austria, Hungary, and Bulgaria — have been compelled to destroy their fortifications, abolish armaments, and promise not to manufacture any military weapons. They are allowed only very limited equipment to maintain domestic order, and they are virtually stripped of all artillery and airplanes. Since so large a part of Europe has disarmed, one might at least expect a proportionate limitation of armaments all around.
But the exact contrary is the case. Europe now has more men under arms than she had before the war. She is spending at least as much money for military purposes. Even the official figures of the League of Nations lead to this conclusion.
In an official document presented to the International Economic Conference in May 1927, a general analysis of public finance brought out the fact that no appreciable diminution had occurred since the reductions made between the years 1919 and 1923. Although the peace treaties limited the defense organizations of four European states to such an extent that they were merely able to maintain domestic peace, the world at large is spending more than 3800 million dollars a year for armaments, and Europe alone is spending more than 2200 million dollars. Expressed in gold, this figure about equals the amount that was being spent in 1913 when preparations for war had reached their height.
Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Rumania— three countries that were either formed or increased as a result of the war — have a population of about 60,000,000. The population of Germany on the eve of the European War of 1914 was estimated at 67,800,000. The German Empire was then at the peak of its economic, industrial, and military power, and to the world at large it personified European militarism. At that time the German army contained 30,075 officers, including doctors, veterinaries, and administrative officials. The officers in Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Rumania now total 51,774.
It would be impossible to assert that the wealth of these three countries, all of which suffered so intensely during the war, in any way compares with the wealth of Germany in 1914. The vanquished countries, — Germany, Austria, Hungary, and Bulgaria, — with a population of 82,000,000, have to-day 9606 officers and 186,816 enlisted men by virtue of the limitation imposed by the peace treaties. Poland alone, with a population of 30,000,000, has 18,292 officers, 38,248 noncommissioned officers, and 213,764 privates — a total of 270,304.
Czechoslovakia is a very progressive country, and has attained a high degree of democracy. Professor Thomas G. Masaryk, the President of the Republic, is a scholar and idealist, a superior spirit. Poland, however, is full of confused parties, peoples, and passions. It is agitated by an exaggerated nationalism and a fantastic and dangerous militarism. Rumania is in the greatest disorder of all. Its governments enjoy no majority, and the Bratiano party, which pretends to be liberal, but dominates the country, commits the most abominable acts of violence and is opposed by all honest people in the country.
The peace treaties were not really concluded in a spirit, of peace, for they heaped a great number of iniquities upon the vanquished. It was, however, possible to hope that these iniquities would be eliminated, owing to the fact that the treaties, bad as they were, contained two important points.
The first point was the Covenant of the League of Nations, which was to guarantee the existing order and to make any form of war impossible. The second point was Article VIII in the League Covenant, which should be considered in the same light as the fifth part of the Versailles Treaty. When this treaty imposed complete disarmament on Germany, it was declared that this reduction would be looked upon as conditional and preliminary to a general limitation of armaments. Article VIII in the Covenant of the League of Nations declares that the maintenance of peace demands the reduction of national armaments to the minimum compatible with national security. This formula is a little vague. What is the minimum necessary for national security? Each country takes a different point of view, depending upon whether it is democratic or nationalist.
Unquestionably the League of Nations has performed certain services. It is useful for ministers from every European country to be obliged to meet several times a year to discuss peace. Often such discussions are beneficial. It is said that hypocrisy is homage paid to virtue. To arm and at the same time to discuss peace seems to bear a certain resemblance to this form of homage. The League of Nations has avoided no war, but it has at any rate forced a discussion of certain problems. To raise a problem is not to solve it; but the League is always under obligation to make everyone think that a solution is possible. I am not an admirer of the League of Nations. It is very difficult for such an institution in its present state to attract many hearty admirers. Too many abuses have been committed in its name, and it has committed too many abuses itself; but it is an institution that should be conserved and developed, not for what it has done, but for what it will be able to do when the eight or nine red or white dictatorships that are poisoning the present sad period have disappeared from European life.
The League of Nations declared its impotence in the Treaty of Locarno. What was the basis of that treaty? Germany, France, and Great Britain guaranteed that there should be no war between Germany and France regarding their frontier. If war broke out, Great Britain would be on the side of the country attacked. It was a partial guaranty, which the Thoiry agreements developed further.
But the Covenant of the League of Nations already contained a general guaranty, and if any further guaranty was demanded it meant that the general guaranty was not functioning. Yet, even after this further guaranty, the troops of the victorious countries remain in the Rhineland, and guaranties of security are still said to be necessary.
Where does a danger of war exist?
France and Great Britain suffered greatly during the war. France not only lost great numbers of men, but enormous wealth. Her population, on account of the low birth rate, still suffers, and will continue to suffer for a long time, from the consequences of the war. The wealth of the nation has been reduced. If we investigate the inheritance tax, we observe that in 1913 the amount of money left in wills amounted to 5531 millions of gold francs, and in 1925 to 9801 millions of paper francs; and the paper franc is worth only one fifth of the gold franc. This does not mean that wealth has been reduced in that proportion. We must bear in mind many elements, particularly tax evasion and the fact that the war nouveaux riches still exist. We can, however, easily believe that the wealth of France has been reduced at least one third. France has reconquered Alsace-Lorraine. She possesses enormously fertile territory and vast magnificent colonies that require peace and many generations of work in order to yield their full value. Even in a victorious war France now has everything to lose and nothing to gain. Germany is the only possible fly in the ointment. Will she accept peace in good faith? Will she resign herself in good faith to the conditions imposed by the treaties?
Great Britain is chiefly concerned with domestic difficulties. Her commerce was profoundly damaged by the war, and her prosperity is menaced. She still suffers more from unemployment than any other European country, and her tax rates are the highest. Her national budget and her local expenses are so heavy that in spite of her huge wealth she meets them only with the greatest effort. The English Conservative Party — which enjoys a large majority in the House of Commons — is not really supported by the bulk of the country, and it has bent every effort to combat the red dictatorship in Russia and to aid the white dictatorships in Italy, Spain, Poland, and Hungary. But the protection it affords is entirely of a diplomatic character and never includes financial or military aid. All over her immense Empire, whose Dominions have become in point of fact autonomous, Great Britain is encountering difficulties, particularly in Egypt, India, and Asia Minor. She wishes to preserve her maritime superiority and to consolidate her present position. Any adventure, no matter how well it came out, would be bad business. She endeavors to make the League of Nations serve her ends and often succeeds in her efforts, but she wants to avoid war.
Now that Germany is completely disarmed, she is in no position to attempt hostilities. Without an army, a navy, or an air force, without a general staff or artillery, she cannot undertake any military adventure without committing suicide. She is surrounded by powerful armed neighbors, and until there is general limitation of armaments she cannot budge. I even believe that the democratic parties, who enjoy a great majority in Germany, do not desire war, and accept Alsace-Lorraine as a fait accompli. There is, however, no party in Germany that accepts the eastern frontier in good faith. The Danzig corridor, the partition of Upper
Silesia, and the Baltic States all irritate her. On these points the peace treaties erred gravely. To pretend to divide Germany for the benefit of Poland was not only mistaken but stupid, and stupidity is even worse than crime when nations are concerned. I believe that no German will ever resign himself to accepting the eastern frontier. There is, however, one important difference between the German parties. The reactionary and militarist groups think that a war is the only way of securing redress. The democratic parties think that satisfaction can be attained by international agreements. In any case, for at least ten years Germany is in no condition to make war.
Soviet Russia also finds it difficult to pursue a militaristic policy. Her economic and financial situation is so serious that it preoccupies her almost entirely. One cannot sympathize with the Bolshevist Government. It follows the same methods, commits the same crimes, and from certain points of view conceives of the world in the same way that Tsarism did. Red tyranny is the consequence of white tyranny. The methods by which Bolshevism penetrates foreign countries are wicked and dangerous, but it must also be admitted that before the Soviet Government launched any attacks it was itself attacked most unjustly. A long attempt was made to starve out and isolate Russia. Insurrectional armies led by Kolchak, Denikin, Judenic, and Wrangel were maintained. The Russian peasants have now won their fight for land, and will never accept the return of Tsarism and reaction. Past errors still oppress the country, and I am convinced that the anti-Russian policy of the English Conservatives has resulted in consolidating the Bolshevist Government — though, let us hope, not for long. I have even heard the most antiBolshevist Russians, both Liberals and Socialists, discuss the policy of the Conservative English Cabinet with ill-concealed antipathy. I have the greatest aversion to Russian Bolshevism, but I must confess that it has never pursued a warlike policy. What it can be justly reproached with is having conducted the worst kind of propaganda abroad and maintaining dangerous propagandists in other countries, somewhat as Italian Fascism does.
If Soviet Russia wanted a war, she could attack Rumania and encounter virtually no resistance. Soviet Russia has never recognized Rumania’s occupation of Bessarabia, which was a dishonest affair. The Rumanians have been rivaling the worst type of Bolshevism, and they have committed and are still committing the most atrocious series of crimes in Bessarabia. Yet Soviet Russia never thought of seizing Bessarabia by means of a military occupation. If Russia had attempted this, what should we have done? We should have been in no condition to stop her.
For various reasons, therefore, the four chief countries in Europe do not desire war and are in no position to pursue it. In all the countries that played a serious part in the last European war the real allies in the cause of peace are the men who did the fighting. Modern war has lost all glamour. It is a methodical, brutal method of destruction, in which the individual disappears and the human mass is sacrificed without realizing what it is doing. It is not as in the past, when noble actions and individual feats of valor were the basis of military morale. There are many more victims than heroes. In every European country I have visited I have observed that, apart from a few excited fools and speculators, all the former combatants are outspoken enemies of war. The more fighting they saw, the less they desire new wars.
Until 1935 or 1940 — that is, until the time when there will be large masses of people who had no part in the last war — European public opinion will oppose any idea of war. In those countries where this opinion can be freely expressed — which is not the case in countries under a dictatorship — the cause of peace has nothing to fear.
It is for this reason that the next seven to ten years will be most decisive. If the present state of disorder continues and nothing is done, public opinion cannot be counted on to do much in the cause of peace.
The greatest guaranty of peace would be a direct, sincere, and loyal agreement between France and Germany, and possibly an economic, union between the two countries. France and Germany between them cover a territory of a little more than a million square kilometres, — about the size of Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana put together, — and their joint population numbers about one hundred million. But what a history they have had and what struggles they have undergone! Both countries have made great contributions to European civilization. Both countries possess complementary virtues and defects. Joined in a common effort and pooling their resources of men, capital, and initiative, both countries would not only provide the greatest guaranty of peace, but even the foundations for a transformed and renewed Europe. Apart and hostile, they will merely weaken themselves and weaken all Europe. If this agreement is not made, conditions for lasting peace will not exist, and every loss on the part of either France or Germany must be considered a disaster for the future of Europe and for civilization all over the world.
No immediate danger of European war exists as far as the large countries are concerned. Nevertheless, danger does exist as a result of the white dictatorships, above all in Italy and Poland, and because of the Balkan situation.
The Danube and the Rhine have always been the two historic European rivers. The last war began on the Danube and ended on the Rhine, and once more the chief menace lies along the Danube. Bulgaria and Hungary are not resigned to their present situation — especially Hungary, which has been unjustly mutilated as a result of the hatred of its neighbors. Hungary possesses a discreetly cynical and dishonest dictatorship which gives a certain amount of encouragement to even the most dangerous movements, and has actually protected counterfeiters. It is arming itself and breaking treaties. It encourages the most corrupt practices and even gives them financial support. In spite of everything, however, this government enjoys the protection of certain English Conservatives like Lord Rothermere, who are unaware of the damage they are doing.
But the gravest danger lies in the fact that the Balkans have begun intriguing as they did during the worst period before the war — in fact, during the period that caused it. Bolshevist Russia has always had its agents, and now it supports more than ever. It excites Communist movements which justify, or seem to justify, reactions. But in the last four years the Fascist Government of Italy has become an even greater source of disorder. It began with an arbitrary occupation of the island of Corfu, which menaced Greece. This occupation was peculiarly absurd, since it only resulted in disturbing a tranquil situation. After this, Turkey was menaced, and rumor had it that Fascist Italy was about to enter Asia Minor.
Then came the treaty with Albania, a poor country, devoid of resources, which suddenly found itself the field of action for Fascist activity. Since this menaced Jugoslavia, relations between Rome and Belgrade became fundamentally poisoned. Italy has no interest in Albania, which is a barren country with a miserable climate; but activity in Albania needlessly provoked counter measures and hostility in Jugoslavia. The simple idea of the Balkans for the Balkan peoples is the only logical solution, but it is violated every day. There are even more Balkan intrigues now than in the past, and certain countries have been secretly encouraging independence movements in Macedonia.
Bolshevism and Fascism are the two menaces to the future prosperity of Europe. Both are similar phenomena in that they deny human liberty and involve the exercise of power on the part of an armed minority. Bolshevism sets about establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat — in other words, putting all resources in the hands of the workers and peasants. It attains this end by force. Fascism suppresses all political liberty and all free manifestations, saying that this is necessary to make Italy a great nation and to found an empire. Mussolini has made numerous speeches insulting the decaying corpse of democracy and asserting that liberty is a prejudice of the past. He has announced that Fascism will found an Italian Empire. To found an empire would mean taking some piece of foreign territory — which in this case would be either a French or a British possession, since it would be out of the question to despoil Switzerland, Austria, or Jugoslavia, which lie along the Italian frontiers.
Italy lacks economic resources, and Italian finance is so wretched that public credit has been profoundly shaken. Italy lacks the prime necessities for war — coal, steel, and oil. She also lacks food and cotton. In her present situation, she could not wage war without the support of Great Britain or the United States. Is it possible that these two countries would encourage such absurd, such grotesque, proposals?
Bolshevism has cut down Russia’s productive capacity; and her foreign business, which the Government controls, has been utterly disastrous. The truth is that Russia is producing much less than she did before the war— in other words, much less than she did under the deplorable Tsarist régime. Economic production demands above all else order, liberty, and individual initiative — three things that no dictatorship can bring about.
Fascism has seriously weakened Italian production. In spite of appearances Itily has fallen into a state of the greatest economic disorder in the course of the last six years. Fascism has not bent its efforts to obtaining results, but to producing manifestations. All over the country there are celebrations, parades, and processions of Black Shirts. Wheat and rice production has declined; yet great festivals are held in honor of wheat and rice, and there is a special celebration in behalf of bread. Expressed in gold pounds, — in other words, without statistical manipulation,— the deficit of Italian business has risen from 643 million gold pounds in 1924 to 1259 million gold pounds in 1927. In short, it has almost doubled. Mr. MacLean, the American commercial attaché at Rome, has calculated that domestic business has dropped 40 per cent in the last two years. This is a terrible figure. Nevertheless, Mr. MacLean is a little too optimistic, for the real decline is nearly 50 per cent.
The loans negotiated in America have been used to maintain the lira, though no one knows how long this will last, and to stabilize it at its present level.
This extravagant stabilization, however, has ruined all industrial exporters. Italy now suffers more bankruptcies than any other country in Europe. In actual figures she has suffered twice as many as any other country, and, relatively to her industrial power, nine or ten times as many as any other country. Because of this absurd lira stabilization at a false level, undertaken not as a part of any economic programme, but merely as a piece of political bluff, the Italians are obliged to pay almost the same taxes as the French, whose country is at least three times as rich. In short, Italian taxes are heavier than those of any other country.
Since the Government bases itself on violence, it needs an even greater number of special militia to maintain it than Bolshevism does. These groups include militia to maintain general order, the voluntary Fascist militia, the railway militia, the post and telegraph militia, the harbor militia, the forest militia, and, most recently of all, the highway militia. About 200,000 people thus make their living off the Fascist Government, and it is like maintaining an army to support them. The industrialists and farmers have to pay for these militias. Besides this, all producers, both employers and employees, are grouped into corporations which involve still another enormous expense. There are fourteen ministries, but Mussolini scoffs at the rest of the world and occupies seven of them, comprising the office of Prime Minister, of Minister of the Interior, of Foreign Affairs, War, Marine, Aviation, and Corporations— in other words, Minister of Labor. Under these conditions, he is able to involve the country in a war before anyone knows what is happening and before the people can manifest their desires in any way.
All free journals in Italy have been suppressed, and the press is suffering. The amount of paper used for the various daily journals has fallen off about one half or three fifths during the last two years. The ablest Italians are in exile, having either been deported or retired from public life. Poverty is increasing, and the Government has refused to meet its obligations on the Treasury and has forced them to be transformed into a consolidated debt. No criticism is allowed, even the most cordial. The press cannot discuss the economic crisis except to say that everything is going smoothly. Elections have disappeared. Even the Chamber of Deputies is going to be transformed into an assembly named by the Government. The administrators of local government and even the representatives of the chambers of commerce are no longer elected. They are appointed by the Government.
The economic situation is bad, but the financial situation is worse. On the day when Fascism feels itself lost, will it not attempt to distract attention by some international adventure? Is not this what all dictatorships have done in the past?
Fascism and Bolshevism, although apparently direct opposites, act in the same manner. Several centuries before Jesus, Plato, the greatest of Greek philosophers, wrote that dictatorship always ended in war, saying that when the dictator felt himself lost he made war. There is no example in modern history of a dictatorship that has not ended in war, revolution, or both.
Dictatorships tend to support each other and to export their methods to other countries. It may be said that, during this terrible period in the life of Europe, Russian Bolshevism and Italian Fascism are trying to spread abroad. Both movements have enlisted an army of propagandists and authorized agents, who are transforming diplomacy and the consular service into propaganda bureaus. All this can be only faintly verified in America, but it can be readily verified elsewhere in alarming proportions; for all over Europe the Bolshevist agents are lining up the forces of Communist revolution, while Fascist agents advocate systematic dictatorships. Armaments have been sent to Bulgaria, Hungary, and elsewhere. After making agreements with Primo de Rivera, Mussolini tried to bring together in Milan and in Rome Tewfik Rushdi Bey, Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Michalocopoulos, Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs, Count Bethlen, Prime Minister of Hungary, and Zaleski, Polish Foreign Minister. This attracted lively attention in France and Germany. Action had already been taken in Rumania and Bulgaria, and the question was whether these conferences were really furthering the cause of peace. If they were, then what was the use of the League of Nations? Did intrigues serve the cause of peace? Though no one dared to say it, the fact remains that the armies sent to Hungary and other countries, the military reorganization of Albania, and the Balkan intrigues, especially those in Macedonia, are not guaranties of peace. Every personal militarist government can only end in acts of war. The more domestic difficulties increase, the more foreign adventures are attempted.
The projects for a multilateral pact to outlaw war are of serious significance, but the reservations everybody demands are such that it is difficult to reach any agreement. In the meantime, until some agreement is made, what may we expect? Is it probable that such efforts will succeed either rapidly or after a brief delay? What I have said leads to neither an optimistic nor a pessimistic conclusion.
Europe is more fully armed than she was before the war. The Great War harmed the entire world and did not prepare the way for peace. However, it aroused such horror that for seven or eight years more any warlike projects will be looked upon with lively antipathy by any of the Great Powers. The decisive hour in the life of Europe will be reached about 1935, when a new generation will have grown up that did not participate in the last war and does not therefore feel this horror. Mussolini was quite right when he said in his speech before the Italian Chamber that the destinies of Europe will be decided about 1935. It will be at about that time that the beaten countries, which are now disarmed, will be free to arm themselves again. An effective action in behalf of peace can only be developed in the next seven or eight years. There is no time to lose.
A direct and sincere agreement between France and Germany would post - pone the outbreak of any war, and the pooling of the resources of these two countries would mean the rehabilitation of Europe and the beginning of a period of prosperity and peace. This agreement is not easy, but it is being discussed by the most eminent men in both countries, even if it has not yet been written down in any programme. The democratic parties of Germany adhere to this principle, and in France not only is the idea supported by the democratic elements, but I believe that even Poincaré and Briand are not completely opposed to it and have no prejudices. However, any agreement is made difficult by the Polish problem and the problem of Germany’s eastern frontier, to which there seems to be no solution.
The Bolshevist dictatorship does not contemplate war, but its deplorable methods and its propaganda abroad justly alarm conservative elements and excite the forces of reaction that always favor war. Nothing has contributed to the development of the different forms of nationalism more than Bolshevist internationalism. It is a very revolting idea that political parties should be in the pay of the Bolshevist Government, whose organizations are preparing for revolutionary movements excited by Moscow, and are busying themselves with the domestic activities of the most civilized countries, propagating disorder.
Italian Fascism and its Balkan intrigues represent permanent danger; if Italian Fascism and the dictatorships that resemble it are not over by 1935, peace will be gravely menaced and compromised, and there will probably not be time to avoid war.
Freedom, democracy, and peace are phenomena of the same order. Without progress there is no liberty and certainly no peace. Every dictatorship is not only a cause of economic and moral depression, but also a source of international disorder.
Happily the present dictatorships in Europe are becoming increasingly impotent, and they almost all bear the marks of their own destruction. But we must be on our guard and look upon the present and coming phase of European events as decisive. The next seven or eight years are either preparing the collapse of Europe or making ready its liveliest participation in the work of prosperity and civilization the world over.