There is hope in these clear-cut issues. Of all wars that ever were fought this war is least likely to have an indecisive ending. It must be settled one way or the other. If the Allied Governments were to make peace to-day, there would be no peace; the peoples of the free countries would not suffer it. Germany cannot make peace, for she is bound by heavy promises to her people, and she cannot deliver the goods. She is tied to the stake, and must fight the course. Emaciated, exhausted, repeating, as if in a bad dream, the old boastful appeals to military glory, she must go on till she drops, and then at last there will be peace.
These may themselves seem boastful words; they cannot be proved except by the event. There are some few Englishmen, with no stomach for a fight, who think that England is in a bad way because she is engaged in a war of which the end is not demonstrably certain. If the issues of wars were known beforehand, and could be discounted, there would be no wars. Good wars are fought by nations who make their choice, and would rather die than lose what they are fighting for. Military fortunes are notoriously variable, and depend on a hundred accidents. Moral causes are constant, and operate all the time. The chief of these moral causes is the character of a people. Germany, by her vaunted study of the art and science of war, has got herself into a position where no success can come to her except by way of the collapse or failure of the English-speaking peoples. A study of the moral causes, if she were capable of making it, would not encourage her in her old impious belief that God will destroy these peoples in order to clear the way for the dominion of the Hohenzollerns.
First published as one of the Oxford Pamphlets, October 1914
It is now recognized in England that our enemy in this war is not a tyrant military caste, but the united people of modern Germany. We have to combat an armed doctrine which is virtually the creed of all Germany. Saxony and Bavaria, it is true, would never have invented the doctrine; but they have accepted it from Prussia, and they believe it. The Prussian doctrine has paid the German people handsomely; it has given them their place in the world. When it ceases to pay them, and not till then, they will reconsider it. They will not think, till they are compelled to think. When they find themselves face to face with a greater and more enduring strength than their own, they will renounce their idol. But they are a brave people, a faithful people, and a stupid people, so that they will need rough proofs. They cannot be driven from their position by a little paper shot. In their present mood, if they hear an appeal to pity, sensibility, and sympathy, they take it for a cry of weakness. I am reminded of what I once heard said by a genial and humane Irish officer concerning a proposal to treat with the leaders of a Zulu rebellion. ‘Kill them all,’ he said, ’it’s the only thing they understand.’ He meant that the Zulu chiefs would mistake moderation for a sign of fear. By the irony of human history this sentence has become almost true of the great German people, who built up the structure of modern metaphysics. They can be argued with only by those who have the will and the power to punish them.