That there should be such a thing is sometimes deplored; because patriotism, like all human qualities, has its bad side and its unfortunate effects. If it were not for patriotism there would probably be no war, and the greatest suffering that the world endures would thus be obviated. But if it were not for patriotism there would be no competition among nations; and in any one nation there would be no national spirit, no endeavor on the part of every man to do his part toward making her strong, efficient, and of good repute or toward making the people individually prosperous and happy. In the same way, on a smaller scale, many people deplore the necessity of competition among organizations, saying that it is ruthless and selfish; that it stamps out the individual; that it makes every man a mere cog in a money-getting machine; that it brings about strife, hatred, jealousies, and sometimes murders; that, if it were not for competition, all men would live together in peace.
This may be so; but if it were not for competition there would probably be little of that strenuous, endeavor without which no effective progress in advancing the welfare of men has ever yet been made. Of course, it may be that what we call “progress” has really not advanced the welfare of men; that the savage in Samoa is as happy as the millionaire in New York; that knowledge itself is not an unmixed benefit; and if we accept this view, we may logically declare that competition, progress, and patriotism are all disadvantages. But who will go so far? It seems to be a fact that we cannot get something for nothing: that every plus has its minus, every joy its pain; that if men succeed in passing beyond the savage state, and in overcoming the forces of nature, so that they can live in houses with every modern luxury and convenience, they must pay for it by a condition of competition that causes personal jealousies among individuals, commercial wars among organizations, physical wars among nations.
Yet the instinctive desire of every one is for peace and comfort, for the maximum of good with the minimum of exertion; and therefore the normal person dislikes to see interjected into human life the abominable confusion of war. From this it comes about that every nation, even if it consciously brings about a war, always endeavors to make it appear that the other party is the aggressor. For this reason in every country the army and navy are said to be for the “defense” of the country. No nation, no matter how aggressive its policy may secretly be, openly declares that it intends to provoke aggression. This does not mean that any nation ever deliberately raises an army and navy for aggression, and then consciously deceives the world in regard to its intention; for men are so constituted as to feel more or less unconsciously that their interests and desires are proper and those of their opponent wrong; and every nation is so firmly persuaded of the righteousness of its own policies as to feel that any country which exhibits antagonism toward these policies is trying to provoke a fight.