« PreviousContinue »
to their promises. In fact, the official records and common sense point in the opposite direction. The Monroe Doctrine would be stripped of all justification if we claimed to be a world power. We peremptorily tell the Europeans that they have no police power in the Americas, and it is a poor rule that does not work both
Uninformed public opinion in the nations of the Entente group would like to see us abandon our traditional attitude and protest against the German violation of her treaties, but the British diplomats certainly would not. We should also have. to protest against their occupation of the neutral Greek isles. The French Foreign Office certainly remembers that we did not protest when they tore up the Algeciras Treaty, and the governing clique in Russia are not anxious to have us start any judicial inquiry into atrocities. They have ravaged too much of East Prussia and Galicia themselves to be enthusiastic for atrocity protests.
For us to claim rank as a world power is clearly an abandonment of our oldest diplomatic tradition. But there is no virtue in mere age. Conditions have changed, are changing, with the shrinking of the world. Steamships, submarine cables, wireless-plants are all drawing in the ends of the earth. It is an entirely safe prophecy that the time is coming when a purely European policy or an American. or Antarctic policy will be provincial, and when local interests will be absorbed in the greater politics of the race. Sooner Sooner or later the Monroe Doctrine - American particularism-will lose all meaning. It is necessary for us to decide whether that time has already arrived.
Mr. Roosevelt loudly affirms that it has, and Mr. Roosevelt is a phenomenon of American life which cannot be ignored. Whether one likes or detests him, it is impossible to forget him. And one of the most outstanding features of his long administration was his insistence that the time had come for us to play a rôle on the stage of world politics. More infractions of our traditional policy occurred while
he was at the helm than in all the previous history of our country. We, or he, participated in the Hague conferences, we mediated between Russia and Japan, and we were "among those also present" at Algeciras. It is an open question if we accomplished anything by these interventions which could not have been done quite as well by Switzerland, but we did get ourselves, and Europe, accustomed to hearing our name at roll-call.
It is hard to combat the argument that sooner or later we must accept world responsibilities, but I for one find it even harder to see what we stand to gain by hurrying. The more we succeed in putting our own house in order, the more we can hope to have an uplifting influence on benighted Europe. Unfortunately, we have been rather slack in arranging our own affairs.
There is much to be said in favor of withholding advice until it is asked for. In a score or more phases of life the people of Europe do accept us as models. They copy our shoes, our dentistry, our juvenile courts, and our hospital organization; but they do not copy our municipal governments or our administration of justice. They have heard more of our lynchings than of the small parks and playgrounds of our progressive cities. On the whole, they think of us as rather uncivilized; but as fast as we give them something worth copying, they copy it, and much more quickly than we have copied their good points. And if we are able, in our dealings with our neighbors on our side of the world, to develop a new scheme of international relations which is as much superior to their methods as our sanitary plumbing is to the traditional English "tub," they will copy that, too. If in our own bailiwick we practised the "peace of justice" more, and talked about it less, it would be better.
This war has plunged us and all the world into deep water. It is a time to hold fast to old customs rather than to experiment in innovations.
We stand pledged to Europe. In return for their abstention in American af
fairs, we have promised not to mix in theirs. Of course a bad pledge is better broken than kept, but it is well to be very sure the pledge is bad before we break it. Is there any preponderating sentiment in our democracy in favor of taking sides on the issues of this European conflict? I think not. There is hardly one of us who has doubts as to which side he wants to see win, but there is a long step from this personal partizanship to the conviction that our Government should identify itself with, and give unqualified support to, either the Triple Alliance or the Entente group. The issues involved are far from clear. They visibly change as the war progresses. All the belligerent countries are divided internally over the vital issues of the war. Is it a war of offense or defense? In England are we to believe the Liberal "Manchester Guardian" or the frankly reactionary "London Morning Post"? Both try to tell us what Britain is fighting for, but their conclusions. are worlds apart. And after the war are we to find Russia revolutionized or more deeply retrograde? There are too many unknown quantities-"unweighables," in Bismarck's phrase-for us to form a really united public opinion on the purely European issues of the war.
If we are to fight whole-heartedly, we must be convinced that we have chosen the side of progress. We admire immensely the scientific achievements and social ameliorations of Germany. In the last generation we have borrowed more of value from Germany than from any other European country, but few of us care to risk our lives for the greater glory of Hohenzollernism. We have a centuryold tradition of peace with England, but more than once official relations have been sorely strained, and we are often shocked at the callous commercialism of the present ruling class of England. Why should we fight for the landlords of the London East End? In our home politics we are fighting against, not for, such people. We have severe penal laws against the sellers of opium. We would be utterly untrue to our own ideals if we were not keen to
help the Russians to their freedom, but it is not our business to help the czar out of a hole.
The issues involved in this war are intricate in the extreme. We would resent any European power taking sides in the Mexican muddle. Our intervention in Europe over the moral issues of this war is equally uncalled for.
But there is nothing in the Monroe Doctrine-in our pledge not to act as a policeman in Europe-which implies that we will never fight a European nation. To change or abandon our theory of "neutral rights" in the midst of the war would be quite as grave a departure from our traditional policy as for us to take sides.
In the accepted custom of international law the procedure of protest is virtually automatic. If a citizen has plausible complaint against some other country, there is little option left to his Foreign Office. The complaint must be registered. It is the duty of his government to see that his evidence is heard, and if his claims are established, to demand compensation. And the general practice is to err on the side of over-protesting. In a synopsis of all the international protests issued in 1910, a relatively peaceful year, it would be found that a majority was received, investigated, and settled without the least hard feeling. Trouble is more likely to arise from the hostile mood of the contending nations than from the gravity of the complaint. Doubtful and important issues, like our recent controversy with England over the Panama Canal tolls, may be settled by common good-will, Insignificant incidents, like the breaking of the cane of a German vice-consul at Casablanca, may lead to the verge of war.
As a general proposition, it can be laid. down that no liberal, democratic nation dreams of fighting over a commercial protest which can be arbitrated and settled by an award of damages. Most of our protests addressed to England since the outbreak of this war have been of this nature. If we had been spoiling for a fight, it would have been easy to start one over the bizarre British doctrine that they
can play fast and loose with our generally admitted trading rights in order indirectly to hurt Germany. The idea that, because the English do not approve of the way the Germans fight, they can inflict reprisals on neutral nations is indeed original. At the first opportunity we shall certainly "go to court" about this, and have this brandnew pretension threshed out. But if the English are ready to live up to their arbitration treaty with us, we certainly do not intend to fight about it.
However, August, 1915, finds us tottering on the verge of a very much more serious conflict with Germany, and it is apparently difficult for the Germans to understand our attitude.
The Roman Church made a very convenient classification in distinguishing between mortal and venal sins. There are many peccadillos that, while technically wrong, cannot be taken very seriously; and there are other acts that, even if we cannot cite the chapter and verse where they are forbidden, seem at once shockingly wrong-heinous.
Great Britain and Germany have both violated international law by armed invasion and occupation of neutral territory. Armies have settled down unwelcomed in the little grand duchy of Luxemburg and in the Greek isles near the mouth of the Dardanelles. Necessity knew no law. In both these cases the weaklings submitted sullenly to to overwhelming force, and as far as one can discover, in both cases the invaders have recognized all the rights of the invaded except their right not to be invaded.
The American attitude toward both these cases is that they are most regrettable. But the case of Belgium is in another category altogether. It was no more "illegal" for the Germans to enter Belgium than for them to enter Luxemburg, but there has been a general wave of horror over the tragic fate of Belgium.
A British cruiser fires a shot across the bow of an American ship. Officers board her, go through her papers, find every evidence that she is bound for a neutral port on non-contraband business. Never
theless, they order her to go into a British port, and with exasperating leisureness. try to make up their mind whether or not they had any right to stop her.
A German submarine shoots a torpedo into a great merchant ship that is suspected of carrying aid to the enemy. And of the hundreds of passengers aboard, most of whom are strictly non-combatants, a large number are uselessly drowned.
Both acts are utterly illegal, but it is idle to contend that we ought to feel equally outraged over both.
Our real quarrel with Germany is that her statesmen cannot, or will not, see this distinction between venal and mortal lawlessness. This clash is more fundamental than the immediate hard feeling over specific incidents. The solution of the Arabic affair does not really solve anything. The real conflict is in the attitude of mind of the two nations.
If we come to a rupture with Germany, it will not be because she has infringed on our rights, England, also, has done that, -but because the way Germany did it was unbearable.
An autocratic government might possibly follow the dictates of logic and pure reason. It might act on the basis that law is law and that one violation is as bad as another, and so expect the rest of the world to be just as indignant over the illegalities of the British immaterial blockade as at the sinking of the Lusitania. But democracies are not ruled by this process of mind, which the Germans call "pure reason." Our newspapers-as good a mirror of our national mind as we possess
are remarkably unanimous. The British have lost heavily in our sympathy by a procedure which seems to us stupid, arrogant, and decidedly unsportsman-like. The German methods have seemed to us inhuman and horrible.
And so, after a year of this European War, there seems little chance of our becoming involved in serious trouble with any of the Entente powers, but there is a depressingly grave possibility of continual conflict with Germany.
But even if the ultimate misfortune befalls us, and our young men set out to war, it does not necessarily imply an abandoning of our traditional policy of non-intervention in purely European issues. We fought Spain without getting involved in any entangling alliances.
Those who believe that because we are bigger than Italy, stronger than Austria, more numerous than France, we also ought to accept the responsibilities of world power will certainly argue, if we become involved in a quarrel with any European nation, that now is the time to accept our true rôle. Either side would welcome our help, and a recognition of our coming of age would follow their victory. If we are to abandon our traditions, this war furnishes a plausible excuse.
But if the worst should come to the worst, and a war be forced on us, it would be quite possible to carry it on against the aggressor without tying ourselves up with either of the European groups. Italy was able to pick her enemies; for several months she fought Austria without joining the Ententes or fighting Austria's allies. We could, if attacked by Germany, carry on effective war without identifying ourselves with the cause of the czar. We could make a clear statement of our reasons for fighting and the specific satisfactions we demanded. We might, for instance, insist on formal apologies and some. trophies to set up in one of our parks. There could be complete military coöperation with the other enemies of Germany without tangling up our diplomacy with any pledge to go on fighting after our aims had been obtained, -to pull chestnuts out of the fire for them,-or to stop as soon as they had had enough. There are ample precedents in history for such a dual war in the midst of a general conflict, and it would be much more in accordance with our traditional policy.
We will not go to war lightly; and if we go at all, our demands will be such that there is small chance of their satis
faction short of a complete victory. But the matter of coördinating military effort during the war would be simple compared to maintaining harmony during the peace proceedings. Especially in this matter it will be well to keep to our traditions. Europe will have to decide whether the town of Temesvar shall be Hungarian, Serb, or Rumanian. The harbor dues of Triest will be a matter of importance to Europe. There will be passionate discussions over the fate of the Dardanelles and the drawing of the new frontiers of Poland. A thousand similar questions will arise. If we are a world power, we ought to have an opinion on such points. It is barely possible that some of our diplomats have the special knowledge to fit them to deal with these matters, but there is no public opinion at home to guide. them. Beyond the broad fact that we are a liberal nation and would prefer to see democratic counsels prevail everywhere, we have no interest in these European issues. To find ourselves fighting over this would be to find ourselves in a ridiculously false position.
If we take part in the peace proceedings, or have the misfortune of being drawn in before the peace, we shall have to come to a clear decision. Are we, or are we not, a world power? sary to choose.
It is neces
We might, for instance, become an ally of France and instruct our diplomats to vote with the French on all questions which do not involve our interests. This is virtually the attitude adopted by Mr. Roosevelt at the Conference of Algeciras. We were remarkably like the tail of a kite.
Or, refusing any alliances, we may keep to our traditional policy and, even if we become involved in the war, reaffirm our Americanism and our disinterestedness in the police problems of Europe. We shall certainly be freer in solving our own problems if we do not become involved in Europe.
It is necessary to choose.