Germany and the Next War Part 21
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It is impossible for anyone not close at hand to decide what steps and measures are imposed upon our foreign policy, in order to secure a favourable political situation should the pending questions so momentous to Germany's existence come to be settled by an appeal to arms. This requires a full and accurate knowledge of the political and diplomatic position which I do not possess. One thing only can be justly said: Beyond the confusion and contradictions of the present situation we must keep before us the great issues which will not lose their importance as time goes on.
Italy, which has used a favourable moment in order to acquire settlements for her very rapidly increasing population (487,000 persons emigrated from Italy in 1908), can never combine with France and England to fulfil her political ambition of winning the supremacy in the Mediterranean, since both these States themselves claim this place. The effort to break up the Triple Alliance has momentarily favoured the Italian policy of expansion. But this incident does not alter in the least the fact that the true interest of Italy demands adherence to the Triple Alliance, which alone can procure her Tunis and Biserta. The importance of these considerations will continue to be felt.
Turkey also cannot permanently go hand-in-hand with England, France, and Russia, whose policy must always aim directly at the annihilation of present-day Turkey. Islam has now as ever her most powerful enemies in England and Russia, and will, sooner or later, be forced to join the Central European Alliance, although we committed the undoubted blunder of abandoning her in Morocco.
There is no true community of interests between Russia and England; in Central Asia, in Persia, as in the Mediterranean, their ambitions clash in spite of all conventions, and the state of affairs in Japan and China is forcing on a crisis which is vital to Russian interests and to some degree ties her hands.
All these matters open out a wide vista to German statesmanship, if it is equal to its task, and make the general outlook less gloomy than recent political events seemed to indicate. And, then, our policy can count on a factor of strength such as no other State possesses--on an army whose military efficiency, I am convinced, cannot be sufficiently valued. Not that it is perfect in all its arrangements and details. We have amply shown the contrary. But the spirit which animates the troops, the ardour of attack, the heroism, the loyalty which prevail amongst them, justify the highest expectations. I am certain that if they are soon to be summoned to arms, their exploits will astonish the world, provided only that they are led with skill and determination. The German nation, too--of this I am equally convinced--will rise to the height of its great duty. A mighty force which only awaits the summons sleeps in its soul. Whoever to-day can awaken the slumbering idealism of this people, and rouse the national enthusiasm by placing before its eyes a worthy and comprehensible ambition, will be able to sweep this people on in united strength to the highest efforts and sacrifices, and will achieve a truly magnificent result.
In the consciousness of being able at any time to call up these forces, and in the sure trust that they will not fail in the hour of danger, our Government can firmly tread the path which leads to a splendid future; but it will not be able to liberate all the forces of Germany unless it wins her confidence by successful action and takes for its motto the brave words of Goethe:
"Bid defiance to every power!
Ever valiant, never cower!
To the brave soldier open flies The golden gate of Paradise."
After I had practically finished the preceding pages, the Franco-German convention as to Morocco and the Congo Compensation were published; the Turko-Italian War broke out; the revolution in China assumed dimensions which point to the probability of new disorders in Eastern Asia; and, lastly, it was known that not merely an _entente cordiale,_ but a real offensive and defensive alliance, aimed at us, exists between France and England. Such an alliance does not seem to be concluded permanently between the two States, but clearly every possibility of war has been foreseen and provided for.
I have been able to insert all the needful references to the two first occurrences in my text; but the light which has lately been cast on the Anglo-French conventions compels me to make a few concluding remarks.
The German Government, from important reasons which cannot be discussed, have considered it expedient to avoid, under present conditions, a collision with England or France at any cost. It has accomplished this object by the arrangement with France, and it may be, of course, assumed that no further concessions were attainable, since from the first it was determined not to fight at present. Only from this aspect can the attitude of the Government towards France and England be considered correct. It is quite evident from her whole attitude that Great Britain was resolved to take the chance of a war. Her immediate preparations for war, the movements of her ships, and the attack of English high finance on the foremost German banking establishments, which took place at this crisis, exclude all doubt on the point. We have probably obtained the concessions made by France only because she thought the favourable moment for the long-planned war had not yet come. Probably she will wait until, on the one hand, the Triple Alliance is still more loosened and Russia's efficiency by sea and land is more complete, and until, on the other hand, her own African army has been so far strengthened that it can actively support the Rhine army.
This idea may sufficiently explain the Morocco policy of the Government, but there can be no doubt, if the convention with France be examined, that it does not satisfy fully our justifiable wishes.
It will not be disputed that the commercial and political arrangement as regards Morocco creates favourable conditions of competition for our manufacturers, _entrepreneurs_ and merchants; that the acquisition of territory in the French Congo has a certain and perhaps not inconsiderable value in the future, more especially if we succeed in obtaining the Spanish _enclave_ on the coast, which alone will make the possession really valuable. On the other hand, what we obtained can never be regarded as a sufficient compensation for what we were compelled to abandon.
I have emphasized in another place the fact that the commercial concessions which France has made are valuable only so long as our armed force guarantees that they are observed; the acquisitions in the Congo region must, as the Imperial Chancellor announced in his speech of November 9, 1911, be regarded, not only from the point of view of their present, but of their future value; but, unfortunately, they seem from this precise point of view very inferior to Morocco, for there can be no doubt that in the future Morocco will be a far more valuable possession for France than the Congo region for Germany, especially if that Spanish _enclave_ cannot be obtained. The access to the Ubangi and the Congo has at present a more or less theoretical value, and could be barred in case of war with us by a few companies of Senegalese.
It would be mere self-deception if we would see in the colonial arrangement which we have effected with France the paving of the way for a better understanding with this State generally. It certainly cannot be assumed that France will abandon the policy of _revanche_, which she has carried out for decades with energy and unflinching consistency, at a moment when she is sure of being supported by England, merely because she has from opportunist considerations come to terms with us about a desolate corner of Africa. No importance can be attached to this idea, in spite of the views expounded by the Imperial Chancellor, v.
Bethmann-Hollweg, in his speech of November 9, 1911. We need not, therefore, regard this convention as definitive. It is as liable to revision as the Algeciras treaty, and indeed offers, in this respect, the advantage that it creates new opportunities of friction with France.
The acquisition of territory in the Congo region means at first an actual loss of power to Germany; it can only be made useful by the expenditure of large sums of money, and every penny which is withdrawn from our army and navy signifies a weakening of our political position.
But, it seems to me, we must, when judging the question as a whole, not merely calculate the concrete value of the objects of the exchange, but primarily its political range and its consequences for our policy in its entirety. From this standpoint it is patent that the whole arrangement means a lowering of our prestige in the world, for we have certainly surrendered our somewhat proudly announced pretensions to uphold the sovereignty of Morocco, and have calmly submitted to the violent infraction of the Algeciras convention by France, although we had weighty interests at stake. If in the text of the Morocco treaty such action was called an explanation of the treaty of 1909, and thus the notion was spread that our policy had followed a consistent line, such explanation is tantamount to a complete change of front.
An additional political disadvantage is that our relations with Islam have changed for the worse by the abandonment of Morocco. I cannot, of course, judge whether our diplomatic relations with Turkey have suffered, but there can be little doubt that we have lost prestige in the whole Mohammedan world, which is a matter of the first importance for us. It is also a reasonable assumption that the Morocco convention precipitated the action of Italy in Tripoli, and thus shook profoundly the solidity of the Triple Alliance. The increase of power which France obtained through the acquisition of Morocco made the Italians realize the importance of no longer delaying to strengthen their position in the Mediterranean.
The worst result of our Morocco policy is, however, undoubtedly the deep rift which has been formed in consequence between the Government and the mass of the nationalist party, the loss of confidence among large sections of the nation, extending even to classes of society which, in spite of their regular opposition to the Government, had heartily supported it as the representative of the Empire abroad. In this weakening of public confidence, which is undisguisedly shown both in the Press and in the Reichstag (although some slight change for the better has followed the latest declarations of the Government), lies the great disadvantage of the Franco-German understanding; for in the critical times which we shall have to face, the Government of the German Empire must be able to rely upon the unanimity of the whole people if it is to ride the storm. The unveiling of the Anglo-French agreement as to war removes all further doubt on this point.
The existence of such relations between England and France confirms the view of the political situation which I have tried to bring out in the various chapters of this book. They show that we are confronted by a firm phalanx of foes who, at the very least, are determined to hinder any further expansion of Germany's power. With this object, they have done their best, not unsuccessfully, to break up the Triple Alliance, and they will not shrink from a war. The English Ministers have left no doubt on this point.[A]
[Footnote A: Cf. speech of Sir E. Grey on November 27, 1911.]
The official statements of the English statesmen have, in spite of all pacific assurances, shown clearly that the paths of English policy lead in the direction which I have indicated. The warning against aggressive intentions issued to Germany, and the assurance that England would support her allies if necessary with the sword, clearly define the limits that Germany may not transgress if she wishes to avoid war with England. The meaning of the English Minister's utterances is not altered by his declaration that England would raise no protest against new acquisitions by Germany in Africa. England knows too well that every new colonial acquisition means primarily a financial loss to Germany, and that we could not long defend our colonies in case of war. They form objects which can be taken from us if we are worsted. Meanwhile a clear commentary on the Minister's speech may be found in the fact that once more the Budget includes a considerable increase in the naval estimates.
In this position of affairs it would be more than ever foolish to count on any change in English policy. Even English attempts at a _rapprochement_ must not blind us as to the real situation. We may at most use them to delay the necessary and inevitable war until we may fairly imagine we have some prospect of success.
If the Imperial Government was of the opinion that it was necessary in the present circumstances to avoid war, still the situation in the world generally shows there can only be a short respite before we once more face the question whether we will draw the sword for our position in the world or renounce such position once and for all. We must not in any case wait until our opponents have completed their arming and decide that the hour of attack has come.
We must use the respite we still enjoy for the most energetic warlike preparation, according to the principles which I have already laid down.
All national parties must rally round the Government, which has to represent our dearest interests abroad. The willing devotion of the people must aid it in its bold determination and help to pave the way to military and political success, without carrying still further the disastrous consequences of the Morocco policy by unfruitful and frequently unjustified criticism and by thus widening the gulf between Government and people. We may expect from the Government that it will prosecute the military and political preparation for war with the energy which the situation demands, in clear knowledge of the dangers threatening us, but also, in correct appreciation of our national needs and of the warlike strength of our people, and that it will not let any conventional scruples distract it from this object.
Repeal of the Five Years Act, reconstruction of the army on an enlarged basis, accelerated progress in our naval armaments, preparation of sufficient financial means--these are requirements which the situation calls for. New and creative ideas must fructify our policy, and lead it to the happy goal.
The political situation offers many points on which to rest our lever.
England, too, is in a most difficult position. The conflict of her interests with Russia's in Persia and in the newly arisen Dardanelles question, as well as the power of Islam in the most important parts of her colonial Empire, are the subjects of permanent anxiety in Great Britain. Attention has already been called to the significance and difficulty of her relations with North America. France also has considerable obstacles still to surmount in her African Empire, before it can yield its full fruits. The disturbances in the Far East will probably fetter Russia's forces, and England's interests will suffer in sympathy. These are all conditions which an energetic and far-sighted German policy can utilize in order to influence the general political situation in the interests of our Fatherland.
If people and Government stand together, resolved to guard the honour of Germany and make every sacrifice of blood and treasure to insure the future of our country and our State, we can face approaching events with confidence in our rights and in our strength; then we need not fear to fight for our position in the world, but we may, with Ernst Moritz Arndt, raise our hands to heaven and cry to God:
"From the height of the starry sky May thy ringing sword flash bright; Let every craven cry Be silenced by thy might!"
Germany and the Next War Part 21
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Germany and the Next War Part 21 summary
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