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Barclay Lecturer in Modern History at Bedford College.,
University of London




This little book is the result of a serious effort to
understand the causes and the issues of a war in
which, whatever we may feel about it, every man,
woman and child of us is engaged. It materialised,
first, in the form of public lectures given at Bedford
College, last October.

An honest attempt has been made to state a case
for Germany. The effort to do so is a necessary
part of any effort to understand what is happening.
In this as in all other controversies, a right statement
of the adversary's case is the beginning of under-
standing. Until that is done we have not even put
the question and all discussion is irrelevant. If it
seems to the author that, at the bar of reason and of
justice, Germany has no case, that may be due to
his bias or to his general incompetence : it is not
due to neglect.

Before all things it is necessary that we should
know and feel that our cause is just. I have tried, in
this book, to show that it is. That question settled,
it is a matter of relatively ver}^ small importance
to us or to our children how and why, exactly, this
war began. It behoves us, now, first of all to do
all we can to secure victory for the Allies and secondly
to look forward to an end. The breaking of the


German power of offence is now a sheer necessity of
the moment ; and to that end we must all combine
with all the force we have. But military victory
may be worse for the victors than defeat for the
vanquished. To do all we can to win is at once hard
and simple, and it is not enough. We have also to
consider what use we can make of victory, when we
have earned it.

If our cause is just, it is just for such and such
reasons : and those very reasons must needs define
and hmit our objects in the war. The justice of our
cause is a compelling justice. If we seek our national
advantage as against other nations, how are we
better than the Germans ?

There is no need to fear that our resolution to
conquer will be sickhed o'er by the pale cast of
thought. The more deeply we consider the issues
of this war, the more fixed will be our resolution.
We are not fighting merely for our homes, our
women and children, for our tradition, our national
life and hberty. It is true that we are fighting for
all these dearest things. It is true : and in a sense
it is enough. It is enough, surely, to make every
man of us who is fit for fighting wishful to fight and
willing, if need be, to die. It is enough to make
rich and poor feel their brotherhood at last. It is
enough to fill every one of us with passionate desire
to contribute freely to the national defence. And
we can all do so. It is not only the enemy abroad
that must be fought. So great a struggle as this
must needs set up, even here, and has already set
up, cruel distress. Even the poorest and weakest
of us may do something to help his neighbour.

A German poet has finely expressed the hatred
and the patriotism that fill him at this moment.


With but slight verbal alteration we may well take
his words for our own : —

"Come, hear the word, repeat the word !
Throughout the Motherland make it heard : —
We will never forego our dream ;
We have all but a single dream ;
We love as one, we strive as one,
We have one love, and one alone : —

In this war we have worse enemies than the
Germans. That factiousness of party or of class
which denounces and does not try to understand,
which hates and is blind, which imputes base motives
to every opposition, is not yet dead among us.
Brutal exploitation of the weak, mean jealousies
and meaner fears, cowardice, hypocrisy, waste, still
flourish in our hearts and in our deeds. These are
the enemy, no less than the Germans : these are our
weakness, and by these we shall fall, if we fall.

But we are fighting for greater things than safety :
for things so great that we may well be uplifted.
We are fighting for the better Europe that means a
better world. We are fighting to destroy an
obstacle to progress. We are fighting for those
ideals of liberty and justice and love which lie deep
in the hearts of all of us, which are the springs of
all noble action and the secret of man's everlasting

We fight not for safety only but for the larger
life, not for trade but for the breaking down of
barriers, not for colonies but for good- will among
men, not for hate of the German but for love of
humanity, not for material gain but for the things
that matter. The heavens are opened, the trumpet
is blown, the call has come for every one of us. As
we respond, so shall it be with us in the end.




The Theory of International Militarism . 3

Germany 29

The Coming of the War 61

England 95





If we wish to understand, as far as possible,
what is now going on in Europe, it is necessary to
arrive at an understanding of what may be con-
veniently, if not quite accurately, called the German
theory of international militarism. It is a theory
of the State and of international relations ; and
underlying it there is, of necessity, a theory of
life or, rather, a theory of values. It is the object
of this section to present these theories in a summary
manner, but as distinctly and as plausibly as possible-
The more plausible we can make them seem the
nearer we shall be to understanding. It is desirable,
but not really necessary, to be just to one's
friends : it is far more important to be just to one's

There has been a great deal of talk in our papers
and magazines of late about the German theory
of the State, about Treitschke and even about

^ B 2


Nietzsche. But it had best be said at once that
we are far from any certainty as to how far the
doctrines in question have been a factor in bringing
about the present tragic situation. Nothing is
more difficult than to estimate the influence of
abstract theory upon action. PoUtical theories, as
such, are coherently conceived and held by very
few persons anywhere. To the great majority of
Germans, as to the great majority of Englishmen,
Treitschke can be little more than a name.

The broad fact which justifies us in speaking of
a German theory of the State may be here broadly
stated. We have in our hands a considerable mass
of German literature of the last fifty years, in which
a fairly definite theory of the State is set forth
more or less coherently and consistently ; and we
have a still greater mass of writings in which the
same theory appears to be clearly implicit. We
find it or some of it in the writings of philosophers
historians, soldiers, politicians, journalists and even
poets. It has been expounded from slightly different
points of view, and particular writers repudiate
certain of its arguments or conclusions. Here an
attempt is made to reconcile it with Christianity :
there it is frankly anti-Christian. Nevertheless it
is, in the main, coherent ; it forms an intelligible
body of doctrine. Moreover, in its modern form,
the theory seems to be distinctly a German product.
It is held here and there by English and by French
people ; but it is not characteristically English or


French, and it is utterly un- Russian. But in
Germany it would seem to have exercised and to
exercise great influence on the thought, and therefore
the action, of great numbers of people. It seems
to have profoundly affected the attitude of the
most educated class in Germany and, perhaps
above all, that of the ruling class in Prussia which,
in the main, directs the foreign policy of Germany-
It seems clear, indeed, that at the present moment
the German Imperial Government represents, con-
sciously or not, a particular theory of inter-State
life. One more preliminary remark should, perhaps,
be made. W'Tiatever influence the teaching of
Nietzsche may have had in promoting the spread
of what we call militarist theory in Germany, the
theory itself is certainly not Nietzsche's. To the
mature Nietzsche all nationalism was contemptible,
and German patriotism the worst of all its forms.
He found something to admire in Bismarck, but
nothing in the German Empire. He was a bad
German and, in his own phrase, a good European.
He saw in Wagner's German patriotism one sign
of the reactionary character of his opera.

But we have not to deal with any question of
origins, nor is it, here, a question of the views of
particular men. It is a question of a political
theory which appears to underlie the action of the
German Government.

It is, of course, difflcult to state any far-reaching
theory in a summary form ; and, involved in any


attempt at compression, is a danger of missing
important connections and of getting proportions
wrong. Especially difficult is it to state accurately
and shortly a theory of values. This modern German
theory may be said to start with the conception
that energy is the sole measure of value. There
is here, at once, a difficulty about words. To use
the word " force " might mislead : the word
" energy " may also be misleading. By energy is
meant not mere moral energy in the narrow sense,
but every form of power both of body and mind.
The value of a nation, of a State, as of an individual,
is conceived as consisting in, and in fact being
nothing else than, the total amount of energy it
possesses, latent or developed. And, since one must
distinguish between forms of energy, it is laid down
that the highest form is creative energy ; the energy
of the thinker, the artist, the reconstructor, the
originator. There is no good but power and the
highest good is creative power.

By applying this idea to the idea of the State, ^ the
State becomes a mechanism for the conservation,
organisation, and development of national energy.
It should have a national or " racial " basis ; and
indeed must have if its co-ordination of individual
energy is to be completely effective.

The State, then, is that which stands for the highest
purpose conceivable : that is, for the development
through organisation of more and more energy,

' As Nietzsche rightly refused to do.


greater and greater life. Without the State the
individual would be almost powerless. It is only by
union with it that he can develop such power as he
has. By giving him personal security, at the outset,
the State gives him his chance. It turns his potential
into his actual. But more than this : by co-ordin-
ating and directing individual power, the State can
produce results — can actualise an amount of energy
indefinitely greater than could otherwise be realised.
The individual owes practically all he has and is to
the State and his highest duty is self-sacrifice to the
State. It is in order that more power may be
developed — that there may be more life and greater
— that the State imposes on the individual legal
restraints and legal burdens. For the sake of that,
the State has to regulate the struggle among indi-
viduals by legal rules, has to impose military service
and taxation and so forth. To resist or even to
repine at these burdens is to play the traitor not
only to the community but to oneself. It is to take
up an absurd position — to deny the value and the
purpose of life.

On the other hand, while the State imposes obli-
gations upon all its members, it is itself necessarily
free of all obligations except to itself. The
sovereignty of the State and its freedom must needs
be absolute. It is, as it were, a thing in itself,
utterly separate. So far as obligation depends
upon positive law it cannot exist between States, for
there is no positive law between States. What is


called International Law rests only on agreements
between absolute sovereign States, incapable by
their very nature of limiting their own freedom.
There is no sanction for International Law, save war.

But so far as obligation rests not upon law but
upon the nature of things and of values, it cannot
exist at all as between States. For every individual
the State of which he is a member is the supreme
and only efficient instrument for the realisation
of values. For the State, therefore, there cannot
exist any basis for obligation towards alien States.
I must ask the reader to observe that I am not
arguing. I am stating a theory or a way of seeing
things. In order to give the idea more complete
definition it will be well to state it differently.

The driving force of all life, it is asserted, is what
Nietzsche called the " will to power." It is not
very easy to give a definite sense to the word
" power " as used in this wide phrase. On the
negative side, " power " would appear to signify
the absence of external obstacles and restraints —
hence a possibihty of unhampered development.
On the positive side it would seem to mean control —
a position such as to enable one to exploit freely
men and things. For such freedom and control,
it is said, all living things strive more or less
consciously and energetically. But such limiting
phrases do not give the whole content of the words
" will to power." There is no such thing as a mere
will to live. The will to live involves and includes


a notion, however hazy, of value in Ufe. The will
to live is a will to live more fully, more freely and
largely. It is a will to enlargement of life, a striving
after ideal liberty. Such conceptions are vague to
most men : but the impulse is universal. The will
to power is a secret and constant desire for more
life, a striving to reahse unformulated ideals.

This striving, it is argued, is the secret of all
progress. Originally, progress may be conceived
as having depended wholly on the will to power in
individuals and on the consequent strife between
individuals. It still ultimately depends on that :
but no longer wholly and no longer, in the main,
directly. With the development of the highly
organised modern State, progress has come more
and more to depend on the conflict between States.
Power is now developed chiefly in and through the
State, which is at once the great storehouse of power
and the mechanism for its exercise. For power
the State exists and the will to power must needs
be the will of the State. To this will there is and
can be no restriction. No obligation can be con-
ceived as fettering that upon which all progress
depends. The State cannot be concerned only
with the organisation of power within itself. It is
the only efficient instrument of the will to power
in every one of its members. By the very nature
of things, the State is bound to extend its control
and so its power of doing, in every possible direction,
as far as possible and by all means.


" He who is not man enough to look this truth
in the face," wrote Treitschke, " should not meddle
with politics." The highest moral duty of the
State is to increase its power. This is its very
life. No State that is not already dying will for-
swear it.

Let us " look this truth in the face " and notice
what it means in international relations. It is
obvious that it means — just War. It means what
Hobbes said, that the natural relation of any two
States is a condition of war. Peace is a temporary
arrangement : peace is an artificial thing. Or,
rather, there is no peace. In " peace " the nations
fight each other with tariffs, with trade com-
petition, with " peaceful penetration." Peace is an
artificially mitigated form of the everlasting war,
which is life.

The modern German prophets of this school,
from Treitschke, whose work was done between
i860 and 1896, to General Bernhardi, writing in
1912, accept, cheerfully enough, this conclusion.
War is the universal law of nature. The ceaseless
struggle among States for power must recurrently
produce unmitigated war. Such war is the result
of the idealism of States. It is the result of an
effort to force a new aspect on things, to force
things into accord with some idea, against deter-
mined opposition. When one State is fully deter-
mined to do this and another State to prevent it,
you get what we ordinarily call war.


Not only, therefore, has a State always a right
to make war, but it may well be and often will be
the positive duty of a State to do so. Pretexts
for war are matter of indifference or matter of pure
calculation. One is reminded of Nietzsche's famous
saying : "Ye sa}^ it is the good cause which hal-
loweth even war ? I say unto you : it is the good
war which halloweth every cause." But, in truth,
there is only one good cause for making war, and
that one is all sufficient : the will to power. A
Government that shrinks under all circumstances
from making war, a Government that refuses to make
war except defensively, must either represent
conscious weakness or be failing in its duty. For
every Government exists as a supreme expression of
the will to power.

From these general assertions we pass to another
proposition, the truth of which has, indeed, already
been implied. In the international struggle, war
is the supreme test. It is the absolute and final
test of energy — that is of real worth. Victory in
war is, in the long run, always the victory of the
superior ; or, if ever it is not so, the case can only
be very exceptional. A single war is not, of course,
necessarily a final judgment. A nation may be
defeated and may recuperate and conquer at last.
But in the long run the people of the greatest moral
and intellectual power will be victorious. If 3^ou
are religiously inclined, you will describe the result
as a judgment of God. If not, you will say, with


General von Bernhardi, that the result is " biologically

Of all factors in progress the greatest, therefore,
is War. It is the decisive factor. It alone gives
absolute decisions, from which no appeal is possible.
By means of War, the weaker is suppressed or
conquered and exploited for the benefit and for the
higher purposes of the stronger. This is the very
essence of progress. Progress is the increase of the
stronger ; the dominance of the strong, the en-
slavement of the natural slave, the extinction of the
degenerate, the increase of freedom and power for
the superior creature.

It must be fully realised that no German thinker
of this school is under the absurd illusion that
victory in war depends on anything that can
accurately be called " brute force." This illusion
is, indeed, one which could hardly exist except
among a people that knows nothing of war. There
is, one may say, no longer any such thing as " brute
force." The mere " brute " has practically no force
at all. Such force as he has he does not know how
to use ; he cannot combine, he cannot direct. Behind
the gun is the highly trained man who works it,
and behind him is the specialised intelligence and
the elaborate organisation that created both it and
him. Behind the army is the spirit and power of
self-sacrifice, the will to endure. There is no brute
force but that of mere numbers.

Though when other things are equal, superior


numbers must win, yet it remains true that mere
numbers alone are all but useless in war. In war
the moral factor, as Napoleon declared, is most
important of all, and next in importance is the
intellectual factor. No soldier ever thought other-
wise. Organisation, training, intelligence, the will
to endure, the will to die, the will to conquer, these
are the factors of victory. In the long run victory
must rest with the people that has most of these.
But that is to say that it must rest with the people
of the greatest total energy, with the people greatest
in peace as in war, greatest in science, in art, in all
creative activities — with the people, that is, whose
triumph is a victory for civilisation.

Now, further, it is argued that if all these things
are so, it is absurd for the weaker nation to appeal
to treaty rights or to so-called international law
against the stronger. A treaty is an expression at
a single moment of the sovereign wills of two or more
States — the High Contracting Parties. Its validity
lies solely in the fact that it really represents, at the
moment, the wills of the States concerned in relation
to its subject. It is a declaration that in the
actual circumstances we shall do or refrain from
doing certain things. Inevitably, from the very
moment of its signature, its validity begins to
disappear. All things are changing continuously ;
ail things are becoming different. The time must
come when the will expressed in the treaty has no
longer any relation to the actual. When that time


comes, the treaty has become — a scrap of paper.
The will, that was behind it, has, necessarily,
changed with the circumstances. In every promise
there must be understood a condition : " So long as
circumstances remain thus." It is absurd to con-
strue a treaty to mean a promise to act always
in the same way however circumstances alter.

A Government that held itself bound by a treaty
after the conditions had passed away under which
that treaty represented a real act of will, would be
a Government whose action had no relation to the
real. It is only the actual that counts.

But, in truth, say the German historians of this
school, no State acts or ever has acted in this absurd
way. A State that pretends to do so, has, invariably,
ulterior purposes to serve. It is as natural that a
State which wishes to maintain, in its own interests,
the existing balance of power, should appeal to
treaties, as that a State which desires, in its own
interest, to upset that balance, should disregard them.
A people dominated by a sense of right — and all
peoples are still more or less thus dominated — seeks
always to discover some manner of reconciling its
sense of right with its will to power. This is where
talk about treaties comes in usefully.

But this is hypocrisy or self-deception ; behind
all this talk about treaties, always and everywhere,
is the will to power. Moreover the form of hypocrisy
that appeals to treaties always denotes conscious weak-
ness and fear. The strong need no hypocrisy. The


attitude of the strong is: " Take from me what is mine
if you can ; if you cannot, look out for what you call
your own." The hypocrite attitude is : "It would
be very wicked of you to take what is mine, because
I have a right to it." This is the attitude of weak-
ness. A right to it ! The answer is that you have
a right to nothing you cannot defend. What you
can take and what you can keep, that you have a
right to — and no more. To say otherwise is to
defy nature, to deny the law of life and of progress,
to blaspheme against life itself. The old saying,
" Might is Right," may be somewhat illogical in
form, but that it roughly expresses the ultimate
truth is expressly declared by Bernhardi and implied,
at least, in all the writings of this school, from
Treitschke onwards. There is, indeed, on their
premises, no logical escape from this conclusion.

The contempt and loathing expressed by writers
of this school for all forms of what is rather un-
fortunately and ridiculously called " Pacifism," must
be read to be believed. Pacifism is described as
either an hypocrisy of the weakling, trying by fraud
to save himself from the destruction that is his
only " right," or as a sign of disgusting degeneracy.
At the very best it is a silly, slavish dream born of
low vitality. Most contemptible of all is the pacifism
which denounces war on the ground that it does not
" pay." Only a nation of shopkeepers, only a nation
that valued material comfort more than power and
security more than achievement, could honestly


take such a view. If the gains of war could be
measured in money, then, indeed, war would not
be worth making. But scarcely less contemptible
are those who denounce war on the ground of its
" inhumanity " or, which is much the same thing,
on the ground of the suffering it causes. War is
the law of human progress ; how, then, can it be
inhuman ? Suffering is incidental to all conflict and,
therefore, to all life. Useless suffering is an evil,
like all useless things : but suffering is no evil in

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Online LibraryJ. W. (John William) AllenGermany and Europe → online text (page 1 of 8)