Germany and the Next War eBook

Friedrich von Bernhardi
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 339 pages of information about Germany and the Next War.

We can, fortunately, assert the impossibility of these efforts after peace ever attaining their ultimate object in a world bristling with arms, where a healthy egotism still directs the policy of most countries.  “God will see to it,” says Treitschke,[I] “that war always recurs as a drastic medicine for the human race!”

[Footnote I:  Treitschke, “Politik,” i., p. 76.]

Nevertheless, these tendencies spell for us in Germany no inconsiderable danger.  We Germans are inclined to indulge in every sort of unpractical dreams.  “The accuracy of the national instinct is no longer a universal attribute with us, as in France.” [J] We lack the true feeling for political exigencies.  A deep social and religious gulf divides the German people into different political groups, which are bitterly antagonistic to each other.  The traditional feuds in the political world still endure.  The agitation for peace introduces a new element of weakness, dissension, and indecision, into the divisions of our national and party life.

[Footnote J:  Treitschke, “Politik,” i., p. 81.]

It is indisputable that many supporters of these ideas sincerely believe in the possibility of their realization, and are convinced that the general good is being advanced by them.  Equally true is it, however, that this peace movement is often simply used to mask intensely selfish political projects.  Its apparent humanitarian idealism constitutes its danger.

Every means must therefore be employed to oppose these visionary schemes.  They must be publicly denounced as what they really are—­as an unhealthy and feeble Utopia, or a cloak for political machinations.  Our people must learn to see that the maintenance of peace never can or may be the goal of a policy.  The policy of a great State has positive aims.  It will endeavour to attain this by pacific measures so long as that is possible and profitable.  It must not only be conscious that in momentous questions which influence definitely the entire development of a nation, the appeal to arms is a sacred right of the State, but it must keep this conviction fresh in the national consciousness.  The inevitableness, the idealism, and the blessing of war, as an indispensable and stimulating law of development, must be repeatedly emphasized.  The apostles of the peace idea must be confronted with Goethe’s manly words: 

  “Dreams of a peaceful day? 
  Let him dream who may! 
  ‘War’ is our rallying cry,
  Onward to victory!”



Prince Bismarck repeatedly declared before the German Reichstag that no one should ever take upon himself the immense responsibility of intentionally bringing about a war.  It could not, he said, be foreseen what unexpected events might occur, which altered the whole situation, and made a war, with its attendant dangers and horrors, superfluous.  In his “Thoughts and Reminiscences” he expresses himself to this effect:  “Even victorious wars can only be justified when they are forced upon a nation, and we cannot see the cards held by Providence so closely as to anticipate the historical development by personal calculation.” [A]

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Germany and the Next War from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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