One may doubt if any war is inevitable. If statesmen can gain time the chances are that they will gain peace. This was the view of public opinion throughout the British Empire down to July 1914. It was in a special sense the view of the Liberal party; and their view was endorsed, if not by the whole body of unionists, at any rate by their leader, in terms which admitted of no misunderstanding.[1] It is also the point of view from which this book is written.... This war was not inevitable; it could have been avoided, but on one condition—if England had been prepared reenex cps .

England was not prepared either morally or materially. Her rulers had left her in the dark as to the dangers which surrounded her. They had neglected to make clear to her—probably even to themselves—the essential principles of British policy, and the sacrifices which it entailed. They had failed to provide armaments to correspond with this policy. When the crisis arose their hands were tied. They had to sit down hurriedly, and decipher their policy, and find out what it meant. Still more hurriedly they had to get it approved, not merely by their fellow-countrymen, but by their own colleagues—a work, if rumour[2] speaks truly, of {38} considerable difficulty. Then they found that one of the main supports was wanting; and they had to set to work frantically to make an army adequate to their needs resorts world jobs.

But it was too late. By this time their policy had fallen about their ears in ruins. For their policy was the neutrality of Belgium, and that was already violated. Their policy was the defence of France, and invasion had begun. Their policy was peace, and peace was broken. The nation which would enjoy peace must be strong enough to enforce peace.


The moods of nations pass like clouds, only more slowly. They bank up filled with menace; we look again and are surprised to find that they have melted away as silently and swiftly as they came. One does not need to be very old to recall various wars, deemed at one time or another to be inevitable, which never occurred. In the 'sixties' war with the second Empire was judged to be inevitable; and along our coasts dismantled forts remain to this day as monuments of our fathers' firm belief in the imminence of an invasion. In the 'seventies,' and indeed until we had entered the present century, war with Russia was regarded as inevitable by a large number of well-informed people; and for a part of this period war with the French Republic was judged to be no less so. Fortune on the whole was favourable. Circumstances changed. The sense of a common danger healed old antagonisms

 

Causes of chronic irritation disappeared of themselves, or were removed by diplomatic surgery. And with the disappearance of these inflammatory centres, misunderstandings, prejudices, and suspicions began to vanish also. {39} Gradually it became clear, that what had been mistaken on both sides for destiny was nothing more inexorable than a fit of temper, or a conflict of business interests not incapable of adjustment. And in a sense the German menace was less formidable than any of these others, for the reason that it was a fit of temper on one side only—a fit of temper, or megalomania. We became fully conscious of the German mood only after the end of the South African War, when its persistence showed clearly that it arose, not from any sympathy with the Dutch, but from some internal cause. When this cause was explained to us it seemed so inadequate, so absurd, so unreal, so contrary to the facts, that only a small fraction of our nation ever succeeded in believing that it actually existed. We had been taught by Carlyle, that while the verities draw immortal life from the facts to which they correspond, the falsities have but a phenomenal existence, and a brief influence over the minds of men. Consequently the greater part of the British people troubled their heads very little about this matter, never thought things would come to a crisis, or lead to serious mischief; but trusted always that, in due time, the ridiculous illusions of our neighbours would vanish and die of their own inanity.

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