Peace on Earth


THE years following the World War bred in the minds of many people an ideal of peace universal and absolute, and a belief that such peace had really begun. Some of us did actually feel that widespread international wars had come to an end, and that such minor wars as might be expected would within a reasonable period submit to the prestige of peace among the Great Powers. We admitted the thousand dangerous circumstances by which our assurance was threatened. We said often that not all the agencies of peace put together, and supported by every nation, including our own, could be counted on with any certainty to prove stronger than the threat of war, or to prevent its recurrence. We had no desire to be fools, or to cheat ourselves. But deprecate as we might, we felt, in that emotional and passionate centre of character where true belief resides, that man’s great collective crime against man had been subdued forever.

The ideal of peace was not one which we held lightly or by half measures. It went to extremes. The ordeal of this generation, in Gilbert Murray’s phrase, the great trial which it must face in the eyes of all subsequent human history, was the test of whether it could confer peace on the generations to follow. What is the state of this ideal to-day? How many people, capable of recognizing fact at all, and not constitutionally immune to what exists as opposed to what they desire, can believe that universal and uninterrupted peace among the major powers has begun, or is possible within any span of history that can seriously concern us? The answer to these questions is grave business for those who once were confident that wars belonged to the bloody past.

I do not speak as an alarmist, threatening world war as an immediate prospect. Many dangers to peace have arisen in the years after the Armistice, and yet have not resulted in the universal disaster which has always been predicted. I do not wish to denounce British hypocrisy or to work up invective against Fascist imperialism. I shall not attempt to read the gloomy and uncertain riddle of what is called ‘current events.’ Our most serious misgivings are supported, not by any particular crisis, but by the gradual loosening of the post-war structure which was to preserve peace, by the obvious readiness or even desire of important political groups to gain their ends by fighting, by defections from the forces of peace and accessions to the forces of war, both moral and material. For the hope of lasting peace we have what is to every appearance the certainty of eventual war. Is it possible to think otherwise if we consider but the one fact of accumulating national armaments?

What is the moral situation at present of those people who came profoundly to believe in the ideal of peace? The last thing any man with a great hope desires to do, especially what he considers a great moral hope, is to reexamine it and to ask whether a case can be made out for the world which has rejected it. But the normal man will not split himself off from reality; he will not separate himself from his fellows while he can decently remain in their company. It is time that someone should attempt to examine the moral position of the pacifist in a world so obviously bent on being anything but peaceful. If there have been falsities in the position of those who believed ardently in peace, we shall do best to make a frank exposure of our mistakes, although a profound part of us will bitterly resist the words of admission even as the mind forces them out. We may be rewarded in the end by finding that we have not lost our ideal, nor abandoned it, but have taken the one way to save it.


‘The peace of the world’ is a great conception, perhaps one of the greatest which can visit the imagination of men. We were so possessed by this conception of world peace that we counted on the vision itself to produce the conditions of its own fulfillment. We expected the very dream of the peace of the world by its own contagion to bring about an adequate community of purpose among the nations. But subsequent fact has made clear the absurdity of the expectation.

While profound economic dissatisfactions and deep-seated conflicts of interest and philosophy exist among nations and social groups, we cannot expect the desire for peace always to take precedence in men’s minds over these immediate urgencies. To bring some measure of order and satisfaction into society is indispensable if violence is to be avoided. To bring the whole world into such a measure of order and satisfaction is a necessary condition of world peace. We have been bitterly reminded, in the months and years just past, that our own system, in which the dream of world peace originated, is not even locally peaceful. The evidence has been accumulating that Europe, the parent of the system, is threatened with the virtual extinction of what remains to it of civilized life, by wars which are now preparing.

No sensible man can regard such a prospect cheerfully. To the devout believer in peace it is terrible enough. But our problem is to put the right moral construction on the facts. That universal peace has not proved attainable by one great effort cannot seriously be called surprising. Perhaps the failure does not justify us in concluding that the race to which we belong has lost all claim to respect, all right to perpetuate itself, and to respond to those ancient incentives which have supported its life, its arts, its discoveries. We have asked of men and nations an unattainable object, a reform which the moral and social condition of the people of the world, the product of their history, has not yet put within the bounds of the possible. The object is not less to be desired than ever; the judgment we had proposed to pass on men if they failed of it was perhaps too hastily conceived.

As we made peace, in our ideal, synonymous with universal and perpetual peace, we flew with equal promptness to another extreme. We believed that there can be no adequate cause for war, that the condition called peace is always and intrinsically preferable to war. The cynicism which found nothing in the world worth dying for became a virtue when it began to be clearly seen what the millions of patient men had died for. The determination never to take part in a future war, which many people have expressed, and which would once have seemed cowardice, has come to seem not merely good sense but enlightened ethic. Yet it is clear that the nations generally have not given themselves to this view, and will not. The mass of men still believe that there are things worth dying for. Are we to condemn them as fools or reprobates? I think that we who espoused the hope of peace have been too ready to believe that a man who would in any degree give his assent to war must thereby alienate himself forever from moral sympathy. This is but one more symptom of the violence and extremity with which the ideal of peace seized the imagination of war-weary people.

Certainly in the world to-day we see masses of people who do not believe that the condition known as ‘peace’ is invariably and intrinsically preferable to war. Men of strong moral conviction, the pacifist himself no exception, are apt to defend rather than deny the appeal to force—in a good cause! Discontented nations, believing themselves repressed by more fortunate nations, do not believe that peace is inherently better than war. Discontented social groups, who believe that the privation they suffer is the result of the unjust power of superior social groups, do not believe that abstention from violence is the sole good. The struggle for peace is the struggle for a more equitable society, the condition alone in which peace can become possible.

The pacifists have often been accused of believing that all conflict in human life, of whatever sort, can be brought to an end. With all that can be said against them, I think they have seldom been such fools as this. What they have believed is that one specific variety of conflict, war between sovereign nations, has become in modern times and with modern weapons conspicuously and disastrously destructive to all nations and all classes. They have believed that conflict of this kind cannot be tolerated if civilization is to endure, and that it can and will be suppressed by the resolution of the race when this lesson becomes sufficiently evident. Here is a moral position from which it is not necessary to retreat. The mistake has been that war between sovereign nations is only a part of the problem; not the disease, but the outward symptom of inward and organic maladies in the collective life of men.

We should gain little by preventing international war only to allow separate societies to be convulsed by internal conflict. But has not this been the very history of the post-war world? The peace machinery of the present is designed to perpetuate things as they are, the status quo, as we say. It is, by this very fact, designed to perpetuate a great deal of injustice and discontent. The irony is that to the degree in which our peace machinery succeeds in preventing war between nations it is liable to promote internal upheavals within nations, and to render more likely a series of violent political and economic changes which in turn will endanger international peace. The advocate of peace is driven to be an advocate of social change. But since distrust of violence is one of his profound instincts, he is bound to prefer as long as he possibly can other means of change. The prospects of social and economic transformation without external or internal violence are not such as to comfort a man of weak stomach. All the more reason for the pacifist not to decline every degree of moral sympathy with those who will not vow total abstention from violence!

The easiest appeal of any cause is to sentimentality. In the revulsion from the horrors of cruelty and destructiveness which the World War impressed on men’s minds, the advocates of peace took the quickest way to another extreme. They spoke and acted as though all cruelty, all suffering, all unpleasant duty, had been repealed by the treaties of peace. They seemed to take it for granted not merely that the outrages worked on men’s bodies and minds by war had been terminated forever, but that cruelty and catastrophe in general would be prevented by the measures which they believed would prevent war. The devout pacifist was so impressed by the sufferings of war that other sufferings appeared negligible, and he virtually considered that with the liberation of the world from this great cause of misery all important collective miseries would have been forever overcome.

The advocates of peace have been children of history, inheritors of the nineteenth century with its expansive dreams of progress and reform. They are descendants of those who pleaded for the child laborers in the early factories, who cried out against slavery and helped to overthrow it, who carried surgery and education into jungles and deserts, along with their theory of salvation. Perhaps they are descendants also of those who dreamed of pantisocracies, and won the ballot for women. They are humanitarians and reformers. But the humanitarian frame of mind is notoriously subject to delusion. It sometimes seems that as the Hebraic Ten Commandments lost their divine authority, an eleventh and very human commandment has been insensibly added by popular demand: Thou shalt not suffer. When the humanitarian takes this position, he has become a sentimentalist, and has lost touch with the moral experience of the race. When the opposition to war has been allowed to rest entirely on emotional grounds, on the belief that tenderness and forbearance can be made universal, it has appeared at its weakest.

And not merely at its weakest, but its most inconstant. Nothing is so fickle as emotion. Photographs, films, and descriptions of the horrors of war have not solidified popular sentiment against it; often enough they have merely stimulated vulgar excitement. Sentiment is just as quick to rally to a picture of the fleet in its manoeuvres. Emotion is Protean; it is as though anger were not anger, fear not fear, but rather as though there were in the human organism a neutral reservoir of emotion, which only needed stirring up to exhibit any kind of symptoms which occasion might decide. And the more emotion is stirred up to extremes, the more nimbly it jumps from one extreme to another. Sentiment for peace becomes a fierce combative resentment toward the nation that seems to threaten peace. A sense of the cruelties of war is perhaps the least dependable support on which the cause of peace can rest. The cruelties and horrors become fascinations and incitements, or the emotion they arouse is transformed by sudden provocation into the desire to attack. The appeal to emotion is often urged as a weapon of peace, a counter-irritant to the excitement of war. It is more truly a weapon of war. The appeal to reason is better worth trying.

Every cause worth contending for has its just claim on moral feeling. The hope of peace, as of every other ideal, must ultimately derive from moral conviction enlightened by intelligence. To protest against sentimentality is not to protest against the emotions, but against reliance on mere feeling, which is extravagant, easily deceived, easily transformed.

Let an international crisis arise, and it is hard to know whether certain pacifists want peace or war. They show themselves ready to risk war, at least, for the sake of the machinery on which peace is supposed to rest. Only the future can judge the effects and the value of the policy of ‘sanctions,’ which during the recent Mediterranean crisis received its first great trial as a weapon of the League. Advocates of peace rallied widely to the League and to sanctions. But it is clear that in adopting the policy of sanctions the League adopted a policy which contained the danger of war. The nation against which sanctions are applied not unnaturally regards them as an expression of hostility, first cousin, in fact, to a military threat. Nations commonly answer one military threat by another. And it appeared with startling force that many pacifists were willing to support an all but military policy — in the cause of peace!

Thus there are pacifists who would fight a holy war for peace. They cease to be moved by the considerations which presumably first led them to condemn war. They have said that no motive justifies war, and yet after all they believe in war for a good motive. But since the phenomenon of rationalization has been so thoroughly examined, we have learned a wise distrust of good motives. The only good motives for war are bad ones. If I want a man’s wife and money, I have a reason for shooting him; but shooting him to preserve peace is a very questionable reason indeed.

The humanitarian is a creature of vagaries, and certainly the cause of peace has not lacked the touch of the fantastic. I once exchanged letters with a correspondent who told me of the imminent formation of a society, the name of which I shall paraphrase: Women of the World for Peace, lounded in Brighton Corners, Pennsylvania. I did not comment on such an unexpected localization of the universal. I did, without success, politely ask whether there is any good reason to believe that women as a sex are more devoted to peace than men? ‘Our’ men, my correspondent called them. And I recommended a scene in The Pirates of Penzance, in which the policemen, reluctantly bowing to the inevitable, are incited to combat by an attractive female chorus. When President Roosevelt appealed to women to preserve peace, we may assume that he expressed his respect for popular sentiment rather than his understanding of international politics. What shall we believe of a Congress and a nation which, not long after repealing a disastrous attempt to keep people from drinking, formally passed solemn legislation to keep them from making profits during war? Such are the acts of a country given to moral spasms rather than moral ideas. If Aristophanes were to be born into our age, and to write a Lysistrata for our times, he would have to complicate the scheme of his play, for it would be hard to know which is the better object for satire, the partisans of war (if there are any!) or the partisans of peace.


But when we have made all these admissions, damaging to those who espoused the ideal of peace, what then? Is the cause of peace to be abandoned? Certainly not. Hope, thought, and effort are forbidden to no one. We can still believe that the judgment which thoughtful people learned to pronounce on war, regarding it as destructive without gain, a debauchment and a cruelty, the symptom of profound defect and failure in the collective life of men, is true and right. Among some at least of the most powerful nations there is perhaps even now a more general and sincere agreement in this view than ever before, even among those who do not think wars avoidable, and who would not refuse to take part if called on. And this agreement, if it is a lasting increment to the cause of peace, even a tiny and now uninfluential one, must be counted true gain.

Most of us are acquainted, of course, with men for whom the World War was virtually a holiday; it was the most dramatic, expressive, and enjoyable episode of their lives. Even among those well acquainted with front-line fighting are many who escaped the worst extremities and who encountered mainly the better side of military experience, its fortitude, fellowship, and discipline. Such men honestly contradict the picture of war, which the noncombatant pacifist too easily forms, as an uninterrupted succession of hideous privations and hideous crimes. Airplanes in general are not sent out to bomb hospitals and sleeping villages; if they were we should have fewer willing pilots. Infantry do not regularly engage in hand-to-hand fighting with the bayonet; if they did we should find it harder to draft unresisting recruits. I have been told of a man, who had abundant opportunity to observe at close quarters the effects of shellfire on the human frame, whose chief personal problem during the World War was to maintain a supply of his customary laxative. These are useful considerations for the pacifist.

But all this does not alter the fact that war is war, that in all sobriety modern warfare, involving whole populations in the activity of refined and intricate destruction by all means of science, economics, and emotional infatuation, does in strictest truth threaten the virtual extinction of civilization in Europe and the serious involvement of America. This being so, all reason, all the moral sense, unite to inform us that we should try to prevent war. Human wisdom finds three courses in the face of threatened injury: to avoid the disaster, to control it as well as possible if it occurs, to mitigate its effects. The pacifist has staked his all on avoiding the disaster of war altogether. His stake in world peace vanished some years ago; his stake in the continued peace of the European system, in which the peace of America is involved, has been seriously impaired, and is even more seriously threatened. What can he do?

One of the obstacles to peace has been that every amateur in the ranks, and not a few professionals, appear to spend their time devising impractical machinery and arousing undependable emotions in favor of their object, and few have tried to examine its limits, its errors, its moral foundation. Those who desire not a holy war for peace, but peace itself, may make their best contribution to the cause not by partisan contentions of policy, indignant judgments of men and nations, but patient examination of their true objectives, of what they may legitimately expect of the world, of the choices they may be called upon to make. In the effort to prevent war the machinery of treaties and conferences and devices must not be despised; and the man who desires peace must try to understand and ally himself in his own nation with the best-judged means for gaining his purpose. But he will do well to regard all policies and all machinery with caution, and not so far commit himself to any of them as to feel that the impairment of a given policy is the destruction of his whole cause. Every man is not a judge of policy; every man is not obliged to furnish ambitious plans and political machinery to improve the world. The obscure citizen who believes in peace has better gifts to bring to his cause than faith in extravagant proposals and embittered contention for them. More will be accomplished by those who do not arouse themselves about methods and policies, but who try rather to exert patient opposition within their own circles to mass emotion, to international hostilities, to propaganda movements against this foreign group or that. A man cannot always be supplied with a policy for other men; but he may sometimes obtain a glimmering of his own moral position.

The primary moral conviction of the pacifist is that war is wrong. This conviction is indispensable if we are to make even an effort to prevent war. But suppose that the best efforts have failed. Still the conviction that war is wrong would have a place in the world. It would have a place on the home front, persistently maintained against the madness of inflamed propaganda and the excesses of noncombatant emotion. It would have a place (as it had during the World War) among men at the front, carrying out faithfully, with human submission and fortitude, the duties laid on them by their government. It would have a place during the period of treaty making, when the rage for decisive humiliation of the enemy is at its peak, when secret ambitions and jealousies are inflated to impossible excess, when hopeful idealisms become the mask behind which diplomacy operates with fatal skill. One object of the pacifist is to prevent war; another is to control it and to mitigate its effects. The central conviction that war is wrong, if he really is moved by this conviction, and not swayed like those around him by a militant passion for some cause, is indispensable to both objects, and forms the ultimate strength of the advocate of peace.

It is very probable that our own peace is bound up with the peace of the world, and that to contend for one is to contend for the other. We desire not to become entangled in the wars of other nations; but even supposing that this desire is firm and general among the American people, — and we do not know how firm or how general it may be, — there is every unlikelihood that we should be able to avoid entanglement. We may even reverse our traditional policy of supporting our right as a neutral to trade with belligerents, and to support this trade by armed force. We may compel travelers to voyage and exporters to ship their goods at their own risk. We may place formal embargoes on real or potential materials of war. Many thousands of Americans will at least desire to see these policies given a trial. But if American goods are seized or sunk and American travelers molested by peoples at war, it will be surprising if our declaration that they have taken their own risks will be remembered for long. Even though the country begins with the belief that citizens ought not to be sacrificed to protect the profits of exporters, this belief may not be able to make head against the emotions of the people if they see American trade and travelers destroyed by foreign countries. Whenever war breaks out it will be a threat to our peace; our peace is inseparable from world peace. Yet the effort to contend for world peace as such is at present idle, and only diverts attention from the perils within our own Western system. The pacifist should concentrate his thinking and his labor toward preserving the peace of his own country, and beyond that, of the group of nations and races that form the culture to which his country belongs. If he cannot maintain the peace of his own system, let him attempt to render wars less frequent and to mitigate their effects. This is a better approach to the peace of the world than an abstract universalism which devises elaborate machinery to keep all men everywhere peaceful at all times, and does not acknowledge the local dangers that convulse our own family of nations.

But the man who believes in peace may be called upon to make a more critical choice than one of mere sympathy or policy. Suppose again that efforts to prevent war have failed, that we have entered on another period of casualty lists, of mass lies, of chemical and aerial destruction, of blockade by sea, of armies locked in trenches, of undernourished children, of boys and old men called to face tanks and machine guns and flame throwers. What is one to do who believes in peace? What choice is open to the man who holds war in physical and mental horror, who believes that if crime has any meaning in the collective actions of men, war is a crime? This is the ultimate personal choice. The believer in peace must respond with some degree of compliance or some degree of resistance. What is his decision to be?

I put this question once in the presence of a former European officer. The answer revealed his choice. With as much distaste for war as can be expected of a brave and reasonable man, he evidently felt that if his nation should ask him to take part in war, refusal would simply not be conceivable. Refusal does not present itself to him as a real possibility. Personal choice does not exist. This, undoubtedly, will be the view of the mass of men; and I cannot think that they are to be abhorred for it. I think that even the ardent pacifist may respect the position they assume. Yet, to the ardent believer in peace, this is perhaps the position which will need to be explained, and which it will cost him an effort of the imagination to understand.

Without some large degree of solidarity and community of instinct, society would be impossible. It is not strange that thoughtful men, as strongly opposed to war as the confirmed pacifist, should feel that when the nation, by whatever blunder or folly, has got itself into desperate conflict, there is no escape from the common burden, that in such an exigency private convictions and desires must give way. In many a man, the acceptance of military duty will not imply approval of war, callousness to its brutalities, or illusions about the consequences of victory. It will rather express his sense of a profound element in human experience, which modern comforts, modern sophistications, modern liberty, have not repealed; it will express his sense of necessity. The sense of necessity is not clear, rational, abstract; it is obscure, human, concrete, seated in the emotions. Necessity commits crimes, necessity is stupid and unreasonable; men know this, but know also, or think they know, that it is none the less necessity. It is their recognition of the common job that must be done, even if the occasion for doing it should have been avoidable, even if it never would have been allowed to occur except for a piece of insane folly.

I say these things not to excuse war, not to recommend the conduct of compliance. I say them because it seems to me important that moral solidarity should be maintained among as many people as possible for as long as possible. It is important, therefore, that the devoted advocate of peace should understand the moral position of those, or some of those, who are prepared to take up arms. Men who accept their part in war as a necessary job to be done are allying themselves with the solidarity of the race. Men who refuse are, in the present state of the world, splitting off from it. Community of sentiment in regard to particular faiths and obligations can be changed, within the limits of certain social groups and over certain periods of time; that is the hope of those who believe in peace. But the tragedy of the pacifist who refuses military service, in the world of the present, is the tragedy of separation. Other men abhor warfare; other men oppose it. But this man declines the acceptance of the common burden. He may be wiser than the others; he may be less courageous, or more courageous. In any case he will not be injured by a due measure of humility.

Of all men I have ever met, the man who struck me, not as unhappiest, — for temperamentally he was, I think, inclined to be cheerful, — but as most tragic in his personal history, was a deserter from a foreign army. He was of all men I have known the most isolated from every common purpose and instinct which brings other men together and gives them a sense of belonging to a group, whether a nation, a class, a profession, or a club. Most men have a sense of belonging to several such groups. This man belonged to none. He was not isolated because he had deserted; he had deserted because from his childhood he had been isolated, cut off by personal circumstances from ever gaining a sense of community with his fellow men or any subdivision of them. The situation of the pacifist who refuses military service is, of course, in no sense to be compared to the situation of a deserter. But if the man of whom I have been speaking had felt any sense of the common burden, of the necessity that leads other men to act in concert, he would have assumed the burden and shared it with them. It is the danger of isolation, of separation from the common task and the common solidarity, that to me seems to threaten those who promise themselves that they will refuse military service. Unless, of course, it turns out that there are more of them than we can now anticipate. There is that in me that would profoundly rejoice to think so.

If there is need for the pacifist to understand the moral position of those who will not decline to fight, there is great need that men in general should understand the moral insight of the pacifist. Those whose instincts will lead them to make some form of resistance of war, even after the nation has committed itself, have their position, and it too deserves to be respected and understood. The pacifist believes that war is wrong. He may not expect that men will always try to avoid it, or succeed if they try. He will not believe it wrong merely because it imposes suffering, but because it enlists the constructive agencies of men, won at immense cost by long struggles with barbarism, in the work of destruction; because it selects the superior part of the population to destroy and be destroyed; because the suffering which it does impose is extreme, falling often on defenseless victims, women and children and civilians far behind the lines of battle; and because the acts required to bring about this suffering are in themselves brutalizing and ignoble. If this is true, then it is not unnatural that many men should say to themselves: ‘I will have nothing to do with war. Whatever its cause or pretext, however plausible the excuses offered for it, however unavoidable it may appear, I will not lend my personal volition to it; I will not participate in the work of destruction by any actions of mine which lie within my knowledge or control.‘

This is the other voice of necessity, of that sense of an impulsion greater than self by which a man is led to take a position and to stand on it. For necessity can instruct a man to take issue with his fellows, instead of leading him to community with them. And if his separation is true and right, it may become the solidarity of later times.

The man who refuses military service will expose himself to other dangers than the moral danger of separation from the society in which he lives. ‘After all, does it do any good to go to jail?’ is a question sometimes asked of those who profess peace. It would be very rash to maintain that it does not do any good to go to jail; but not everyone will be obliged to carry his resistance to such a radical point. As Sir Thomas Browne remarked that every man is not a fit champion for truth, so it can certainly be said that not every advocate of peace is a fit candidate for jail. We may remind ourselves that peace may be contended for by quiet and persistent conduct as well as by extreme and vehement. There is more than one acceptable form of behavior during war, more than one mode, more than one degree of resistance which a man may be called upon to exert according to his character and his skill.

For my part, I doubt the wisdom of taking pledges or of trying to determine a fixed course of conduct in advance of unpredictable circumstances. It is enough to keep in mind what the pacifist may rightly object to in war; and that may be summed up in the word ‘destructiveness.’ His resistance will concentrate against this object. As far as it may lie within his power or judgment, he will avoid contributing to the work of destruction by his efforts or support or consent — destruction of life, of the goods and achievements of civilization, both real and intangible, and of moral integrity. And as he may he will protest against the destruction which is being waged around him.

It is no longer necessary to multiply arguments against war, but a symbol is never without use. I sat one evening in a moving-picture theatre. A newsreel was in progress. A great personage in diplomacy walked down a flight of steps; a very fat man in trunks proved the firmness of his abdomen by receiving full in the middle a cannon ball fired from an old-fashioned villagegreen cannon; some workmen disinterred the wreck of an airplane in which several people had been killed; a popular actress landed from a steamer — all this to the impersonal brassy affirmatives of hoarse music. And suddenly a little episode, dredged up amid all this rubbish and flung on the screen as impersonally and thoughtlessly as the rest, one more item of news, one more jab of stimulation. The barracks of a military school in France appear. Ranks of children, ranging, perhaps, from six or seven years to thirteen or fourteen, and dressed in stiff military clothes, march about a stony courtyard or parade. They are equipped with dummy guns, for they are too small as yet to bear adult arms. With these they go through the rudiments of a drill, their pointed faces all serious, all a little anxious, all looking for something that is not present, wondering about something which they have never discovered, but which belongs to them, and which they will never know. Precisely yet childishly they march and drill; precisely they sing a military song in thin, shrill voices, each chest rising to the same breath, each face impersonal, each pair of eyes as haunting, in the expression of something defeated and inarticulate, as the eyes of a rat in a cellar. The exercises over, one of the adult officers in command steps forward to the camera and explains. His sentences are brief, simple, and military, Gallic in precision as his voice is Gallic in accent. ’This is an institution for the orphan sons of French officers killed in the war. The children are fed, clothed, and educated at the expense of the state. They will be taught to follow the profession of their fathers.’