Long before war broke out it had become a commonplace of political theory that the Southern Slav question could be solved in one of two ways—either inside the Habsburg Monarchy or outside it—either with its help and under its aegis, or against it and despite its resistance. With the outbreak of war the problem assumed a new form; the alternatives are the absorption of the two independent Serb States in the neighbouring Monarchy—in other words, the union of the entire Southern Slav race under Habsburg rule—or the liberation of her kinsmen in the Monarchy by Serbia as the Southern Slav Piedmont. This latter ideal, it has always been obvious, could only be achieved through the medium of a general European war, and it is in this manner that it is actually in process of achievement.
The Austrian Note to Serbia was deliberately framed in such a manner as to be unacceptable by any State which valued its self-respect or prestige. The military leaders desired war, while the Foreign Office, already committed for years to a violently Serbophobe policy, was working hand in glove with the German Ambassador Tschirschky, and with the very highest quarters in Berlin. The German Government in its official case admits having given Austria “a free hand against Serbia,” while there are good grounds for believing that the text of the Note was submitted to the German Emperor and that the latter fully approved of (if he did not actually suggest) the fatal time-limit of forty-eight hours, which rendered all efforts towards peace hopeless from the outset.
The Austrian case against Serbia, as embodied in this Note, rested upon a secret investigation in the prison of Sarajevo. The persistent rumours that the assassins are agents-provocateurs, and that pressure of a somewhat drastic kind was brought to bear upon them after their arrest, cannot of course be accepted as proved. But the essential point to bear in mind is the fact that the details of the Austrian “case,” as embodied in the notorious Note of July 23, originated in the same quarter as the previous attempts to slander and discredit Serbia. Count Forgach, the arch-forger of the Austrian Legation in Belgrade, was permanent Under-secretary in the Foreign Office, and as Count Berchtold’s right hand and prompter in Balkan affairs, was directly responsible for the pronounced anti-Serb tendencies which have dominated the foreign policy of the Dual Monarchy since the rise of the Balkan League. As a Magyar nobleman with intimate Jewish connections, Forgach was an invaluable link between Magyar extremist policy and Berlin on the one hand and Salonica and Constantinople on the other. In view of his record as the inspirer of the Vasic forgeries, we are amply justified in declining to accept any “evidence” prepared by him and his subordinates, and insisting upon a full and open trial of the murderers as the only conceivable foundation for charges of complicity.