Germany and the Next War Part 20
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Against these debts may be placed a considerable property in domains, forests, mines, and railways. The stock capital of the State railways reached, on March 31, 1908, in millions of marks, in--
Marks, Prussia (Hesse) 9,888 Bavaria 1,694 Saxony 1,035 Wurtemburg 685 Baden 727 Alsace-Lorraine 724
--a grand total, including the smaller State systems, of 15,062 milliard marks. This sum has since risen considerably, and reached at the end of 1911 for Prussia alone 11,050 milliards. Nevertheless, the national debts signify a very heavy burden, which works the more disadvantageously because these debts are almost all contracted in the country, and presses the more heavily because the communes are also often greatly in debt.
The debt of the Prussian towns and country communes of 10,000 inhabitants and upwards alone amounts to 3,000 million marks, in the whole Empire to some 5,000 million marks. This means that interest yearly has to be paid to the value of 150 million marks, so that many communes, especially in the east and in the western industrial regions, are compelled to raise additional taxation to the extent of 200, 300, or even 400 per cent. The taxes also are not at all equally distributed according to capacity to pay them. The main burden rests on the middle class; the large fortunes are much less drawn upon. Some sources of wealth are not touched by taxation, as, for example, the speculative income not obtained by carrying on any business, but by speculations on the Stock Exchange, which cannot be taxed until it is converted into property. Nevertheless, the German nation is quite in a position to pay for the military preparations, which it certainly requires for the protection and the fulfilment of its duties in policy and civilization, so soon as appropriate and comprehensive measures are taken and the opposing parties can resolve to sacrifice scruples as to principles on the altar of patriotism.
The dispute about the so-called Imperial Finance reform has shown how party interests and selfishness rule the national representation; it was not pleasant to see how each tried to shift the burden to his neighbour's shoulders in order to protect himself against financial sacrifices. It must be supposed, therefore, that similar efforts will be made in the future, and that fact must be reckoned with. But a considerable and rapid rise of the Imperial revenue is required if we wish to remain equal to the situation and not to abandon the future of our country without a blow.
Under these conditions I see no other effectual measure but the speedy introduction of the _Reichserbrecht_ (Imperial right of succession), in order to satisfy the urgent necessity. This source of revenue would oppress no class in particular, but would hit all alike, and would furnish the requisite means both to complete our armament and to diminish our burden of debt.
If the collateral relations, with exception of brothers and sisters, depended on mention in the will for any claim--that is to say, if they could only inherit when a testimentary disposition existed in their favour--and if, in absence of such disposition, the State stepped in as heir, a yearly revenue of 500 millions, according to a calculation based on official material, could be counted upon. This is not the place to examine this calculation more closely. Even if it is put at too high a figure, which I doubt, yet the yield of such a tax would be very large under any circumstances.
Since this, like every tax on an inheritance, is a tax on capital--that is to say, it is directly derived from invested capital--it is in the nature of things that the proceeds should be devoted in the first instance to the improvement of the financial situation, especially to paying off debts. Otherwise there would be the danger of acting like a private gentleman who lives on his capital. This idea is also to be recommended because the proceeds of the tax are not constant, but liable to fluctuations. It would be advisable to devote the proceeds principally in this way, and to allow a part to go towards extinguishing the debt of the communes, whose financial soundness is extremely important. This fundamental standpoint does not exclude the possibility that in a national crisis the tax may be exceptionally applied to other important purposes, as for example to the completion of our armaments on land and sea.
There are two objections--one economic, the other ethical--which may be urged against this right of the State or the Empire to inherit. It is argued that the proceeds of the tax were drawn from the national wealth, that the State would grow richer, the people poorer, and that in course of time capital would be united in the hand of the State, that the independent investor would be replaced by the official, and thus the ideal of Socialism would be realized. Secondly, the requirement that relations, in order to inherit, must be specially mentioned in the will, is thought to be a menace to the coherence of the family. "According to our prevailing law, the man who wishes to deprive his family of his fortune must do some positive act. He must make a will, in which he bequeathes the property to third persons, charitable institutions, or to any other object. It is thus brought before his mind that his natural heirs are his relations, his kin, and that he must make a will if he wishes to exclude his legal heirs. It is impressed upon him that he is interfering by testamentary disposition in the natural course of things, that he is wilfully altering it. The Imperial right of succession is based on the idea that the community stands nearer to the individual than his family. This is in its inmost significance a socialistic trait.
The socialistic State, which deals with a society made up of atoms, in which every individual is freed from the bonds of family, while all are alike bound by a uniform socialistic tie, might put forward a claim of this sort."[F]
[Footnote F: Bolko v. Katte, in the _Kreuzzeitung_ of November 18, 1910.]
Both objections are unconvincing.
So long as the State uses the proceeds of the inheritances in order to liquidate debts and other outgoings, which would have to be met otherwise, the devolution of such inheritances on the State is directly beneficial to all members of the State, because they have to pay less taxes. Legislation could easily prevent any accumulation of capital in the hands of the State, since, if such results followed, this right of succession might be restricted, or the dreaded socialization of the State be prevented in other ways. The science of finance could unquestionably arrange that. There is no necessity to push the scheme to its extreme logical conclusion.
The so-called ethical objections are still less tenable. If a true sense of family ties exists, the owner of property will not fail to make a will, which is an extremely simple process under the present law. If such ties are weak, they are assuredly not strengthened by the right of certain next of kin to be the heirs of a man from whom they kept aloof in life. Indeed, the Crown's right of inheritance would produce probably the result that more wills were made, and thus the sense of family ties would actually be strengthened. The "primitive German sense of law,"
which finds expression in the present form of the law of succession, and is summed up in the notion that the family is nearer to the individual than the State, has so far borne the most mischievous results. It is the root from which the disruption of Germany, the particularism and the defective patriotism of our nation, have grown up. It is well that in the coming generation some check on this movement should be found, and that the significance of the State for the individual, no less than for the family, should be thoroughly understood.
These more or less theoretical objections are certainly not weighty enough to negative a proposal like that of introducing this Imperial right of succession if the national danger demands direct and rapid help and the whole future of Germany is at stake.
If, therefore, no other proposals are forthcoming by which an equally large revenue can be obtained; the immediate reintroduction of such a law of succession appears a necessity, and will greatly benefit our sorely-pressed country. Help is urgently needed, and there would be good prospects of such law being passed in the Reichstag if the Government does not disguise the true state of the political position.
Political preparations are not less essential than financial. We see that all the nations of the world are busily securing themselves against the attack of more powerful opponents by alliances or _ententes_, and are winning allies in order to carry out their own objects. Efforts are also often made to stir up ill-feeling between the other States, so as to have a free hand for private schemes. This is the policy on which England has built up her power in Europe, in order to continue her world policy undisturbed. She cannot be justly blamed for this; for even if she has acted with complete disregard of political morality, she has built up a mighty Empire, which is the object of all policy, and has secured to the English people the possibility of the most ambitious careers. We must not deceive ourselves as to the principles of this English policy. We must realize to ourselves that it is guided exclusively by unscrupulous selfishness, that it shrinks from no means of accomplishing its aims, and thus shows admirable diplomatic skill.
There must be no self-deception on the point that political arrangements have only a qualified value, that they are always concluded with a tacit reservation. Every treaty of alliance presupposes the _rebus sic stantibus_; for since it must satisfy the interests of each contracting party, it clearly can only hold as long as those interests are really benefited. This is a political principle that cannot be disputed.
Nothing can compel a State to act counter to its own interests, on which those of its citizens depend. This consideration, however, imposes on the honest State the obligation of acting with the utmost caution when concluding a political arrangement and defining its limits in time, so as to avoid being forced into a breach of its word. Conditions may arise which are more powerful than the most honourable intentions. The country's own interests--considered, of course, in the highest ethical sense--must then turn the scale. "Frederick the Great was all his life long charged with treachery, because no treaty or alliance could ever induce him to renounce the right of free self-determination."[A]
The great statesman, therefore, will conclude political _ententes_ or alliances, on whose continuance he wishes to be able to reckon, only if he is convinced that each of the contracting parties will find such an arrangement to his true and unqualified advantage. Such an alliance is, as I have shown in another place, the Austro-German. The two States, from the military no less than from the political aspect, are in the happiest way complements of each other. The German theatre of war in the east will be protected by Austria from any attempt to turn our flank on the south, while we can guard the northern frontier of Austria and outflank any Russian attack on Galicia.
Alliances in which each contracting party has different interests will never hold good under all conditions, and therefore cannot represent a permanent political system.
"There is no alliance or agreement in the world that can be regarded as effective if it is not fastened by the bond of the common and reciprocal interests; if in any treaty the advantage is all on one side and the other gets nothing, this disproportion destroys the obligation." These are the words of Frederick the Great, our foremost political teacher _pace_ Bismarck.
We must not be blinded in politics by personal wishes and hopes, but must look things calmly in the face, and try to forecast the probable attitude of the other States by reference to their own interests.
Bismarck tells us that "Illusions are the greatest danger to the diplomatist. He must take for granted that the other, like himself, seeks nothing but his own advantage." It will prove waste labour to attempt to force a great State by diplomatic arrangements to actions or an attitude which oppose its real interests. When a crisis arises, the weight of these interests will irresistibly turn the scale.
When Napoleon III. planned war against Prussia, he tried to effect an alliance with Austria and Italy, and Archduke Albert was actually in Paris to conclude the military negotiations.[B] These probably were going on, as the French General Lebrun was in Vienna on the same errand.
Both countries left France in the lurch so soon as the first Prussian flag flew victoriously on the heights of the Geisberg. A statesman less biassed than Napoleon would have foreseen this, since neither Austria nor Italy had sufficient interests at stake to meddle in such a war under unfavourable conditions.
[Footnote B: When Colonel Stoffel, the well-known French Military Attache in Berlin, returned to Paris, and was received by the Emperor, and pointed out the danger of the position and the probable perfection of Prussia's war preparations, the Emperor declared that he was better informed. He proceeded to take from his desk a memoir on the conditions of the Prussian army apparently sent to him by Archduke Albert, which came to quite different conclusions. The Emperor had made the facts therein stated the basis of his political and military calculations. (Communications of Colonel Stoffel to the former Minister of War, v. Verdy, who put them at the service of the author.)]
France, in a similar spirit of selfish national interests, unscrupulously brushed aside the Conventions of Algeciras, which did not satisfy her. She will equally disregard all further diplomatic arrangements intended to safeguard Germany's commercial interests in Morocco so soon as she feels strong enough, since it is clearly her interest to be undisputed master in Morocco and to exploit that country for herself. France, when she no longer fears the German arms, will not allow any official document in the world to guarantee German commerce and German enterprise any scope in Morocco; and from the French standpoint she is right.
The political behaviour of a State is governed only by its own interests, and the natural antagonism and grouping of the different Great Powers must be judged by that standard. There is no doubt, however, that it is extraordinarily difficult to influence the political grouping with purely selfish purposes; such influence becomes possible only by the genuine endeavour to further the interests of the State with which closer relations are desirable and to cause actual injury to its opponents. A policy whose aim is to avoid quarrel with all, but to further the interests of none, runs the danger of displeasing everyone and of being left isolated in the hour of danger.
A successful policy, therefore, cannot be followed without taking chances and facing risks. It must be conscious of its goal, and keep this goal steadily in view. It must press every change of circumstances and all unforeseen occurrences into the service of its own ideas. Above all things, it must he ready to seize the psychological moment, and take bold action if the general position of affairs indicates the possibility of realizing political ambitions or of waging a necessary war under favourable conditions. "The great art of policy," writes Frederick the Great, "is not to swim against the stream, but to turn all events to one's own profit. It consists rather in deriving advantage from favourable conjunctures than in preparing such conjunctures." Even in his Rheinsberg days he acknowledged the principle to which he adhered all his life: "Wisdom is well qualified to keep what one possesses; but boldness alone can acquire." "I give you a problem to solve," he said to his councillors when the death of Emperor Charles VI. was announced.
"When you have the advantage, are you to use it or not?"
Definite, clearly thought out political goals, wise foresight, correct summing up alike of one's own and of foreign interests, accurate estimation of the forces of friends and foes, bold advocacy of the interests, not only of the mother-country, but also of allies, and daring courage when the critical hour strikes--these are the great laws of political and military success.
The political preparation for war is included in them. He who is blinded by the semblance of power and cannot resolve to act, will never be able to make political preparations for the inevitable war with any success.
"The braggart feebleness which travesties strength, the immoral claim which swaggers in the sanctity of historical right, the timidity which shelters its indecision behind empty and formal excuses, never were more despised than by the great Prussian King," so H. v. Treitschke tells us.
"Old Fritz" must be our model in this respect, and must teach us with remorseless realism so to guide our policy that the position of the political world may be favourable for us, and that we do not miss the golden opportunity.
It is an abuse of language if our unenterprising age tries to stigmatize that energetic policy which pursued positive aims as an adventurist policy. That title can only be given to the policy which sets up personal ideals and follows them without just estimation of the real current of events, and so literally embarks on incalculable adventures, as Napoleon did in Mexico, and Italy in Abyssinia.
A policy taking all factors into consideration, and realizing these great duties of the State, which are an historical legacy and are based on the nature of things, is justified when it boldly reckons with the possibility of a war. This is at once apparent if one considers the result to the State when war is forced on it under disadvantageous circumstances. I need only instance 1806, and the terrible catastrophe to which the feeble, unworthy peace policy of Prussia led.
In this respect the Russo-Japanese War speaks a clear language. Japan had made the most judicious preparations possible, political as well as military, for the war, when she concluded the treaty with England and assured herself of the benevolent neutrality of America and China. Her policy, no less circumspect than bold, did not shrink from beginning at the psychological moment the war which was essential for the attainment of her political ends. Russia was not prepared in either respect. She had been forced into a hostile position with Germany from her alliance with France, and therefore dared not denude her west front in order to place sufficient forces in the Far East. Internal conditions, moreover, compelled her to retain large masses of soldiers in the western part of the Empire. A large proportion of the troops put into the field against Japan were therefore only inferior reserves. None of the preparations required by the political position had been made, although the conflict had long been seen to be inevitable. Thus the war began with disastrous retreats, and was never conducted with any real vigour. There is no doubt that things would have run a different course had Russia made resolute preparations for the inevitable struggle and had opened the campaign by the offensive.
England, too, was politically surprised by the Boer War, and consequently had not taken any military precautions at all adequate to her aims or suited to give weight to political demands.
Two points stand out clearly from this consideration.
First of all there is a reciprocal relation between the military and political preparations for war. Proper political preparations for war are only made if the statesman is supported by a military force strong enough to give weight to his demands, and if he ventures on nothing which he cannot carry through by arms. At the same time the army must be developed on a scale which takes account of the political projects. The obligation imposed on the General to stand aloof from politics in peace as well as in war only holds good in a limited sense. The War Minister and the Head of the General Staff must be kept _au courant_ with the all-fluctuating phases of policy; indeed, they must be allowed a certain influence over policy, in order to adapt their measures to its needs, and are entitled to call upon the statesman to act if the military situation is peculiarly favourable. At the same time the Minister who conducts foreign policy must, on his side, never lose sight of what is in a military sense practicable; he must be constantly kept informed of the precise degree in which army and navy are ready for war, since he must never aim at plans which cannot, if necessary, be carried out by war. A veiled or open threat of war is the only means the statesman has of carrying out his aims; for in the last resort it is always the realization of the possible consequences of a war which induces the opponent to give in. Where this means is renounced, a policy of compromise results, which satisfies neither party and seldom produces a permanent settlement; while if a statesman announces the possibility of recourse to the arbitrament of arms, his threat must be no empty one, but must be based on real power and firm determination if it is not to end in political and moral defeat.
The second point, clearly brought before us, is that a timid and hesitating policy, which leaves the initiative to the opponent and shrinks from ever carrying out its purpose with warlike methods, always creates an unfavourable military position. History, as well as theory, tells us by countless instances that a far-seeing, energetic policy, which holds its own in the face of all antagonism, always reacts favourably on the military situation.
In this respect war and policy obey the same laws; great results can only be expected where political and military foresight and resolution join hands.
If we regard from this standpoint the political preparation for the next war which Germany will have to fight, we must come to this conclusion: the more unfavourable the political conjuncture the greater the necessity for a determined, energetic policy if favourable conditions are to be created for the inevitably threatening war.
So long as we had only to reckon on the possibility of a war on two fronts against France and Russia, and could count on help in this war from all the three parties to the Triple Alliance, the position was comparatively simple. There were, then, of course, a series of various strategical possibilities; but the problem could be reduced to a small compass: strategical attack on the one side, strategical defence on the other, or, if the Austrian army was taken into calculation, offensive action on both sides. To-day the situation is different.
We must consider England, as well as France and Russia. We must expect not only an attack by sea on our North Sea coasts, but a landing of English forces on the continent of Europe and a violation of Belgo-Dutch neutrality by our enemies. It is also not inconceivable that England may land troops in Schleswig or Jutland, and try to force Denmark into war with us. It seems further questionable whether Austria will be in a position to support us with all her forces, whether she will not rather be compelled to safeguard her own particular interests on her south and south-east frontiers. An attack by France through Switzerland is also increasingly probable, if a complete reorganization of the grouping of the European States is effected. Finally, we should be seriously menaced in the Baltic if Russia gains time to reconstruct her fleet.
All these unfavourable conditions will certainly not occur simultaneously, but under certain not impossible political combinations they are more or less probable, and must be taken into account from the military aspect. The military situation thus created is very unfavourable.
If under such uncertain conditions it should be necessary to place the army on a war footing, only one course is left: we must meet the situation by calling out strategic reserves, which must be all the stronger since the political conditions are so complicated and obscure, and those opponents so strong on whose possible share in the war we must count. The strategic reserve will be to some extent a political one also. A series of protective measures, necessary in any case, would have to be at once set on foot, but the mass of the army would not be directed to any definite point until the entire situation was clear and all necessary steps could be considered. Until that moment the troops of the strategic reserve would be left in their garrisons or collected along the railway lines and at railway centres in such a way that, when occasion arose, they could be despatched in any direction. On the same principle the rolling-stock on the lines would have to be kept in readiness, the necessary time-tables for the different transport arrangements drawn up, and stores secured in safe depots on as many different lines of march as possible. Previous arrangements for unloading at the railway stations must be made in accordance with the most various political prospects. We should in any case be forced to adopt a waiting policy, a strategic defensive, which under present conditions is extremely unfavourable; we should not be able to prevent an invasion by one or other of our enemies.
No proof is necessary to show that a war thus begun cannot hold out good prospects of success. The very bravest army must succumb if led against a crushingly superior force under most unfavourable conditions. A military investigation of the situation shows that a plan of campaign, such as would be required here on the inner line, presents, under the modern system of "mass" armies, tremendous difficulties, and has to cope with strategic conditions of the most unfavourable kind.
The disadvantages of such a situation can only be avoided by a policy which makes it feasible to act on the offensive, and, if possible, to overthrow the one antagonist before the other can actively interfere. On this initiative our safety now depends, just as it did in the days of Frederick the Great. We must look this truth boldly in the face. Of course, it can be urged that an attack is just what would produce an unfavourable position for us, since it creates the conditions on which the Franco-Russian alliance would be brought into activity. If we attacked France or Russia, the ally would be compelled to bring help, and we should be in a far worse position than if we had only one enemy to fight. Let it then be the task of our diplomacy so to shuffle the cards that we may be attacked by France, for then there would be reasonable prospect that Russia for a time would remain neutral.
This view undoubtedly deserves attention, but we must not hope to bring about this attack by waiting passively. Neither France nor Russia nor England need to attack in order to further their interests. So long as we shrink from attack, they can force us to submit to their will by diplomacy, as the upshot of the Morocco negotiations shows.
If we wish to bring about an attack by our opponents, we must initiate an active policy which, without attacking France, will so prejudice her interests or those of England, that both these States would feel themselves compelled to attack us. Opportunities for such procedure are offered both in Africa and in Europe, and anyone who has attentively studied prominent political utterances can easily satisfy himself on this point.
In opposition to these ideas the view is frequently put forward that we should wait quietly and let time fight for us, since from the force of circumstances many prizes will fall into our laps which we have now to struggle hard for. Unfortunately such politicians always forget to state clearly and definitely what facts are really working in their own interests and what advantages will accrue to us therefrom. Such political wisdom is not to be taken seriously, for it has no solid foundation. We must reckon with the definitely given conditions, and realize that timidity and _laissez-aller_ have never led to great results.
Germany and the Next War Part 20
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Germany and the Next War Part 20 summary
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