EUROPE’S POST-WAR RECONSTRUCTION AND PEACE POLICY
No right-thinking person has nowadays any doubt as to the profound injustice of the Treaty of Versailles and of all the treaties which derive from it. But this fact is of small importance, inasmuch as it is not justice or injustice which regulates the relations between nations, but their interests and sentiments. In the past we have seen Christian peoples, transplanted in America, maintain the necessity of slavery, and we have seen, and continue to see every day, methods of reasoning which, when used by the defeated enemy were declared to be fallacious and wrong, become in turn, when varied only in form, the ideas and the customary life of the conquerors in the War—ideas which then assume the quality of liberal expressions of democracy.
If appeals to the noblest human sentiments are not made in vain (and no effort of goodness or generosity is ever sterile), the conviction which is gradually forming itself, even in the least receptive minds, that the treaties of peace are inapplicable, as harmful to the conquerors as to the conquered, gains in force. For the treaties are at one and the same time a menace for the conquerors and a paralysis of all activity on the part of the conquered, since once the economic unity of Continental Europe is broken the resultant depression becomes inevitable.
If many errors have been committed, many errors were inevitable. What we must try to do now is to limit the consequences of these mistakes in a changed spirit. To reconstruct where we see only ruins is the most evident necessity. We must also try to diffuse among the nations which have won the War together and suffered together the least amount of diffidence possible. As it is, the United States, Great Britain, France, Italy, Japan, all go their own way. France has obtained her maximum of concessions, including those of least use to her, but never before has the world seen her so alone in her attitude as after the treaties of Paris.
What is most urgently required at the moment is to change the prevalent war-mentality which still infects us and overcomes all generous sentiments, all hopes of unity. The statement that war makes men better or worse is, perhaps, an exaggerated one. War, which creates a state of exaltation, hypertrophies all the qualities, all the tendencies, be they for good or for evil. Ascetic souls, spirits naturally noble, being disposed toward sacrifice, develop a state of exaltation and true fervour. How many examples of nobility, of abnegation, of voluntary martyrdom has not the War given us? But in persons disposed to evil actions, in rude and violent spirits (and these are always in the majority), the spirit of violence increases. This spirit, which among the intellectuals takes the form of arrogance and concupiscence, and in politics expresses itself in a policy of conquest, assumes in the crowd the most violent forms of class war, continuous assaults upon the power of the State, and an unbalanced desire to gain as much as possible with the least possible work.