“The greatest triumph of our time, a triumph in a region loftier than that of electricity or steam, will be the enthronement of this idea of Public Right as the governing idea of European policy; as the common and precious inheritance of all lands, but superior to the passing opinion of any. The foremost among the nations will be that one which, by its conduct, shall gradually engender in the minds of the others a fixed belief that it is just.”—GLADSTONE.
Sec.1. The Two Issues.—The War of 1914 is not simply a war between the Dual Alliance and the Triple Entente: it is, for Great Britain and Germany especially, a war of ideas—a conflict between two different and irreconcilable conceptions of government, society, and progress. An attempt will be made in this chapter to make clear what these conceptions are, and to discuss the issue between them as impartially as possible, from the point of view, not of either of the combatant Powers, but of human civilisation as a whole.
There are really two great controversies being fought out between Great Britain and Germany: one about the ends of national policy, and another about the means to be adopted towards those or any other ends. The latter is the issue raised by the German Chancellor’s plea—not so unfamiliar on the lips of our own countrymen as we are now tempted to believe—that “Necessity knows no law.” It is the issue of Law and “scraps of paper” against Force, against what some apologists have called “the Philosophy of Violence,” but which, in its latest form, the French Ambassador has more aptly christened “the Pedantry of Barbarism.” That issue has lately been brought home, in its full reality, to the British public from the course of events in Belgium and elsewhere, and need not here be elaborated. Further words would be wasted. A Power which recognises no obligation but force, and no law but the sword, which marks the path of its advance by organised terrorism and devastation, is the public enemy of the civilised world.
But it is a remarkable and significant fact that the policy in which this ruthless theory is embodied commands the enthusiastic and united support of the German nation. How can this be explained?
It must be remembered in the first place that the German public does not see the facts of the situation as we do. On the question of Belgian neutrality and the events which precipitated the British ultimatum, what we know to be a false version of the facts is current in Germany, as is evident from the published statements of the leaders of German thought and opinion, and it may be many years before its currency is displaced.