Is it this that explains the curious fact that Wars—notwithstanding all their bitterness and brutishness—do not infrequently lead to strange amalgamations and generations? The spreading of the seeds of Greek culture over the then known world by Alexander’s conquests, or the fertilizing of Europe with the germs of republican and revolutionary ideas by the armies of Napoleon, or the immense reaction on the mediaeval Christian nations caused by the Crusades, are commonplaces of history; and who—to come to quite modern times—could have foreseen that the Boer War would end in the present positive alliance between the Dutch and English in South Africa, or that the Russo-Japanese conflict would so profoundly modify the ideas and outlook of the two peoples concerned?
In making these remarks I do not for a moment say that the gains resulting from War are worth the suffering caused by it, or that the gains are not worth the suffering. The whole subject is too vast and obscure for one to venture to dogmatize on it. I only say that if we are to find any order and law (as we must inevitably try to do) in these convulsions of peoples, these tempests of human history, it is probably in the direction that I have indicated.
Of course we need not leave out of sight the ordinary theory and explanation, that wars are simply a part of the general struggle for existence—culminating explosions of hatred and mutual destruction between peoples who are competing with each other for the means of subsistence. That there is something in this view one can hardly deny; and it is one which I have already touched upon. Still, I cannot help thinking that there is something even deeper—something that connects War with the amatory instinct; and that this probably is to be found in the direction of a physiological impact and fusion between the two (or more) peoples concerned, which fertilizes and regenerates them, and is perhaps as necessary in the life of Nations as the fusion of cells is in the life of Protozoa, or the phenomena of sex in the evolution of Man.
And while the Nations fight, the little mortals who represent them have only the faintest idea of what is really going on, of what the warfare means. They feel the sweep of immense passions; ecstasies and horrors convulse and dislocate their minds; but they do not, cannot, understand. And the dear creatures in the trenches and the firing-lines give their lives—equally beautiful, equally justified, on both sides: fascinated, rapt, beyond and beside themselves, as foes hating each other with a deadly hatred; seized with hideous, furious, nerve-racking passions; performing heroic, magnificent deeds, suffering untold, indescribable wounds and pains, and lying finally side by side (as not unfrequently happens) on the deserted battlefield, reconciled and redeemed and clasping hands of amity even in death.