The War and Democracy eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 414 pages of information about The War and Democracy.
among non-combatants almost as ghastly as that of the battlefield.  This was due not so much to inaction resulting from callousness as to unwise action and ignorance.  During the past century political science and economic inquiry have made vast strides, and consequently the injurious social effects of warfare may be minimised, though not averted; and a considerable body of public opinion, far more enlightened than during any previous European war, is almost certain to exercise some pressure in the direction of wise and far-reaching action both during the war and after it is ended.  These considerations must be borne in mind in discussing both the present position and possible future developments.

It is clear that four great European Powers and some smaller ones cannot engage in war without shaking the fabric of European civilisation to its foundations.  The tramp of fifteen million armed men is the greatest social and economic fact of the present day, and indeed of the present generation.  These millions of combatants have to be clothed, fed, armed, transported, and tended in health and in sickness; they are non-producers for the time, consuming in large quantities the staple commodities of life, and calling in addition for all the paraphernalia of war; sooner or later, they will desire to return to the plough and the mine, the factory and the railroad.  These two facts alone are of tremendous importance.  But besides this, the activity of those who stay at home is called into play in a thousand different ways, and economic and social life leave their well-trodden paths in answer to the imperious call of national necessity.  Social institutions of all kinds are inevitably led into new fields of thought and action, and States are driven to untried experiments in communal activity.  The usual channels of thought dry up, the flood of new ideas and of old ideas throbbing with a new life rushes on unconfined, here in the shallows, there in the deeps, presently to overflow into the old channels, cleansing their beds and giving them a new direction, and linking up in fruitful union but remotely connected streams.  When fighting ceases and there comes the calm of peace, society will tend to revert to its normal functions, based on peace; but the society of yesterday can never return.  Social life cannot be the same as it was before, not merely because those activities called forth by the war may persist in some form, but because of the growth of new ideas under the stimulus of the war.  The struggle will almost certainly set in progress trains of thought not only connected with questions of war and peace, but with the wider questions of human destiny.

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The War and Democracy from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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