Germany and the Next War by Friedrich von Bernhardi

Produced by Jonathan Ingram, Bonny Fafard and PG Distributed Proofreaders GERMANY AND THE NEXT WAR BY GENERAL FRIEDRICH VON BERNHARDI TRANSLATED BY ALLEN H. POWLES 1912 All the patriotic sections of the German people were greatly excited during the summer and autumn of 1911. The conviction lay heavy on all hearts that in the settlement
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All the patriotic sections of the German people were greatly excited during the summer and autumn of 1911. The conviction lay heavy on all hearts that in the settlement of the Morocco dispute no mere commercial or colonial question of minor importance was being discussed, but that the honour and future of the German nation were at stake. A deep rift had opened between the feeling of the nation and the diplomatic action of the Government. Public opinion, which was clearly in favour of asserting ourselves, did not understand the dangers of our political position, and the sacrifices which a boldly-outlined policy would have demanded. I cannot say whether the nation, which undoubtedly in an overwhelming majority would have gladly obeyed the call to arms, would have been equally ready to bear permanent and heavy burdens of taxation. Haggling about war contributions is as pronounced a characteristic of the German Reichstag in modern Berlin as it was in medieval Regensburg. These conditions have induced me to publish now the following pages, which were partly written some time ago.

Nobody can fail to see that we have reached a crisis in our national and political development. At such times it is necessary to be absolutely clear on three points: the goals to be aimed at, the difficulties to be surmounted, and the sacrifices to be made.

The task I have set myself is to discuss these matters, stripped of all diplomatic disguise, as clearly and convincingly as possible. It is obvious that this can only be done by taking a national point of view.

Our science, our literature, and the warlike achievements of our past, have made me proudly conscious of belonging to a great civilized nation which, in spite of all the weakness and mistakes of bygone days, must, and assuredly will, win a glorious future; and it is out of the fulness of my German heart that I have recorded my convictions. I believe that thus I shall most effectually rouse the national feeling in my readers’ hearts, and strengthen the national purpose.


_October, 1911_




Power of the peace idea–Causes of the love of peace in Germany– German consciousness of strength–Lack of definite political aims –Perilous situation of Germany and the conditions of successful self-assertion–Need to test the authority of the peace idea, and to explain the tasks and aims of Germany in the light of history


Pacific ideals and arbitration–The biological necessity of war–The duty of self-assertion–The right of conquest–The struggle for employment–War a moral obligation–Beneficent results of war –War from the Christian and from the materialist standpoints– Arbitration and international law–Destructiveness and immorality of peace aspirations–Real and Utopian humanity–Dangerous results of peace aspirations in Germany–The duty of the State


Bismarck and the justification of war–The duty to fight–The teaching of history–War only justifiable on adequate grounds–The foundations of political morality–Political and individual morality –The grounds for making war–The decision to make war–The responsibility of the statesman


The ways of Providence in history–Christianity and the Germans– The Empire and the Papacy–Breach between the German World Empire and the revived spiritual power–Rise of the great States of Europe and political downfall of Germany after the Thirty Years’ War–Rise of the Prussian State–The epoch of the Revolution and the War of Liberation–Intellectual supremacy of Germany–After the War of Liberation–Germany under William I. and Bismarck–Change in the conception of the State and the principle of nationality–New economic developments and the World Power of England–Rise of other World Powers– Socialism, and how to overcome it–German science and art– Internal disintegration of Germany and her latent strength


Grounds of the intellectual supremacy of Germany–Germany’s role as spiritual and intellectual leader–Conquest of religious and social obstacles–Inadequacy of our present political position– To secure what we have won our first duty–Necessity of increasing our political power–Necessity of colonial expansion– Menace to our aspirations from hostile Powers


Points of view for judging of the political situation–The States of the Triple Alliance–The political interests of France and Russia– The Russo-French Alliance–The policy of Great Britain– America and the rising World Powers of the Far East–The importance of Turkey–Spain and the minor States of Europe–Perilous position of Germany–World power or downfall–Increase of political power: how to obtain it–German colonial policy–The principle of the balance of power in Europe–Neutral States–The principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of other States–Germany and the rules of international politics –The foundations of our internal strength


Its necessity–Its twofold aspect–The educational importance of military efficiency–Different military systems–Change in the nature of military efficiency due to the advance of civilization– Variety of methods of preparation for war–The armaments of minor States–The armaments of the Great Powers–Harmonious development of all elements of strength–Influence on armaments of different conceptions of the duties of the State–Permanent factors to be kept in sight in relation to military preparedness– Statecraft in this connection


Our opponents–The French army–The military power of Russia– The land forces of England–The military power of Germany and Austria; of Italy–The Turkish army–The smaller Balkan States –The Roumanian army–The armies of the lesser States of Central Europe–Greece and Spain–The fleets of the principal naval Powers–The enmity of France–The hostility of England– Russia’s probable behaviour in a war against Germany–The military situation of Germany–Her isolation–What will be at stake in our next war–Preparation for war


England’s preparations for a naval war against Germany–Germany’s first measures against England–England and the neutrality of the small neighbouring States–The importance of Denmark–Commercial mobilization–The two kinds of blockade: The close blockade and the extended blockade–England’s attack on our coasts–Co-operation of the air-fleet in their defence–The decisive battle and its importance–Participation of France and Russia in a German-English war


Reciprocal relations of land and sea power–The governing points of view in respect of war preparations–Carrying out of universal military service–The value of intellectual superiority–Masses, weapons, and transport in modern war–Tactical efficiency and the quality of the troops–The advantage of the offensive–Points to be kept in view in war preparations–Refutation of the prevailing restricted notions on this head–The _Ersatzreserve_–New formations–Employment of the troops of the line and the new formations–Strengthening of the standing army–The importance of personality


Not criticism wanted of what is now in existence, but its further development–Fighting power and tactical efficiency–Strength of the peace establishment–Number of officers and N.C.O.’s, especially in the infantry–Relations of the different arms to each other–Distribution of machine guns–Proportion between infantry and artillery–Lessons to be learned from recent wars with regard to this–Superiority at the decisive point–The strength of the artillery and tactical efficiency–Tactical efficiency of modern armies–Tactical efficiency and the marching depth of an army corps–Importance of the internal organization of tactical units–Organization and distribution of field artillery; of heavy field howitzers–Field pioneers and fortress pioneers–Tasks of the cavalry and the air-fleet–Increase of the cavalry and formation of cyclist troops–Tactical organization of the cavalry–Development of the air-fleet–Summary of the necessary requirements–Different ways of carrying them out–Importance of governing points of view for war preparations


The spirit of training–Self-dependence and the employment of masses– Education in self-dependence–Defects in our training for war on the grand scale–Need of giving a new character to our manoeuvres and to the training of our commanders–Practical training of the artillery– Training in tactical efficiency–Practice in marching under war conditions–Training of the train officers and column leaders– Control of the General Staff by the higher commanders–Value of manoeuvres: how to arrange them–Preliminary theoretical training of the higher commanders–Training of the cavalry and the airmen; of the pioneers and commissariat troops–Promotion of intellectual development in the army–Training in the military academy


The position of a World Power implies naval strength–Development of German naval ideals–The task of the German fleet; its strength –Importance of coast defences–Necessity of accelerating our naval armaments–The building of the fleet–The institution of the air-fleet–Preliminary measures for a war on commerce– Mobilization–General points of view with regard to preparations for the naval war–Lost opportunities in the past


The universal importance of national education–Its value for the army–Hurtful influences at work on it–Duties of the State with regard to national health–Work and sport–The importance of the school–The inadequacy of our national schools–Military education and education in the national schools–Methods of instruction in the latter–Necessity for their reform–Continuation schools–Influence of national education on the Russo-Japanese War–Other means of national education–The propaganda of action


Duties of the State in regard to war preparations–The State and national credit–The financial capacity of Germany–Necessity of new sources of revenue–The imperial right of inheritance–Policy of interests and alliances–Moulding and exploitation of the political situation–The laws of political conduct–Interaction of military and political war preparations–Political preparations for our next war–Governing factors in the conduct of German policy


The latest political events–Conduct of the German Imperial Government –The arrangement with France–Anglo-French relations and the attitude of England–The requirements of the situation



The value of war for the political and moral development of mankind has been criticized by large sections of the modern civilized world in a way which threatens to weaken the defensive powers of States by undermining the warlike spirit of the people. Such ideas are widely disseminated in Germany, and whole strata of our nation seem to have lost that ideal enthusiasm which constituted the greatness of its history. With the increase of wealth they live for the moment, they are incapable of sacrificing the enjoyment of the hour to the service of great conceptions, and close their eyes complacently to the duties of our future and to the pressing problems of international life which await a solution at the present time.

We have been capable of soaring upwards. Mighty deeds raised Germany from political disruption and feebleness to the forefront of European nations. But we do not seem willing to take up this inheritance, and to advance along the path of development in politics and culture. We tremble at our own greatness, and shirk the sacrifices it demands from us. Yet we do not wish to renounce the claim which we derive from our glorious past. How rightly Fichte once judged his countrymen when he said the German can never wish for a thing by itself; he must always wish for its contrary also.

The Germans were formerly the best fighting men and the most warlike nation of Europe. For a long time they have proved themselves to be the ruling people of the Continent by the power of their arms and the loftiness of their ideas. Germans have bled and conquered on countless battlefields in every part of the world, and in late years have shown that the heroism of their ancestors still lives in the descendants. In striking contrast to this military aptitude they have to-day become a peace-loving–an almost “too” peace-loving–nation. A rude shock is needed to awaken their warlike instincts, and compel them to show their military strength.

This strongly-marked love of peace is due to various causes.

It springs first from the good-natured character of the German people, which finds intense satisfaction in doctrinaire disputations and partisanship, but dislikes pushing things to an extreme. It is connected with another characteristic of the German nature. Our aim is to be just, and we strangely imagine that all other nations with whom we exchange relations share this aim. We are always ready to consider the peaceful assurances of foreign diplomacy and of the foreign Press to be no less genuine and true than our own ideas of peace, and we obstinately resist the view that the political world is only ruled by interests and never from ideal aims of philanthropy. “Justice,” Goethe says aptly, “is a quality and a phantom of the Germans.” We are always inclined to assume that disputes between States can find a peaceful solution on the basis of justice without clearly realizing what _international_ justice is.

An additional cause of the love of peace, besides those which are rooted in the very soul of the German people, is the wish not to be disturbed in commercial life.

The Germans are born business men, more than any others in the world. Even before the beginning of the Thirty Years’ War, Germany was perhaps the greatest trading Power in the world, and in the last forty years Germany’s trade has made marvellous progress under the renewed expansion of her political power. Notwithstanding our small stretch of coast-line, we have created in a few years the second largest merchant fleet in the world, and our young industries challenge competition with all the great industrial States of the earth. German trading-houses are established all over the world; German merchants traverse every quarter of the globe; a part, indeed, of English wholesale trade is in the hands of Germans, who are, of course, mostly lost to their own country. Under these conditions our national wealth has increased with rapid strides.

Our trade and our industries–owners no less than employes–do not want this development to be interrupted. They believe that peace is the essential condition of commerce. They assume that free competition will be conceded to us, and do not reflect that our victorious wars have never disturbed our business life, and that the political power regained by war rendered possible the vast progress of our trade and commerce.

Universal military service, too, contributes to the love of peace, for war in these days does not merely affect, as formerly, definite limited circles, but the whole nation suffers alike. All families and all classes have to pay the same toll of human lives. Finally comes the effect of that universal conception of peace so characteristic of the times–the idea that war in itself is a sign of barbarism unworthy of an aspiring people, and that the finest blossoms of culture can only unfold in peace.

Under the many-sided influence of such views and aspirations, we seem entirely to have forgotten the teaching which once the old German Empire received with “astonishment and indignation” from Frederick the Great, that “the rights of States can only be asserted by the living power”; that what was won in war can only be kept by war; and that we Germans, cramped as we are by political and geographical conditions, require the greatest efforts to hold and to increase what we have won. We regard our warlike preparations as an almost insupportable burden, which it is the special duty of the German Reichstag to lighten so far as possible. We seem to have forgotten that the conscious increase of our armament is not an inevitable evil, but the most necessary precondition of our national health, and the only guarantee of our international prestige. We are accustomed to regard war as a curse, and refuse to recognize it as the greatest factor in the furtherance of culture and power.

Besides this clamorous need of peace, and in spite of its continued justification, other movements, wishes, and efforts, inarticulate and often unconscious, live in the depths of the soul of the German people. The agelong dream of the German nation was realized in the political union of the greater part of the German races and in the founding of the German Empire. Since then there lives in the hearts of all (I would not exclude even the supporters of the anti-national party) a proud consciousness of strength, of regained national unity, and of increased political power. This consciousness is supported by the fixed determination never to abandon these acquisitions. The conviction is universal that every attack upon these conquests will rouse the whole nation with enthusiastic unanimity to arms. We all wish, indeed, to be able to maintain our present position in the world without a conflict, and we live in the belief that the power of our State will steadily increase without our needing to fight for it. We do not at the bottom of our hearts shrink from such a conflict, but we look towards it with a certain calm confidence, and are inwardly resolved never to let ourselves be degraded to an inferior position without striking a blow. Every appeal to force finds a loud response in the hearts of all. Not merely in the North, where a proud, efficient, hard-working race with glorious traditions has grown up under the laurel-crowned banner of Prussia, does this feeling thrive as an unconscious basis of all thought, sentiment, and volition, in the depth of the soul; but in the South also, which has suffered for centuries under the curse of petty nationalities, the haughty pride and ambition of the German stock live in the heart of the people. Here and there, maybe, such emotions slumber in the shade of a jealous particularism, overgrown by the richer and more luxuriant forms of social intercourse; but still they are animated by latent energy; here, too, the germs of mighty national consciousness await their awakening.

Thus the political power of our nation, while fully alive below the surface, is fettered externally by this love of peace. It fritters itself away in fruitless bickerings and doctrinaire disputes. We no longer have a clearly defined political and national aim, which grips the imagination, moves the heart of the people, and forces them to unity of action. Such a goal existed, until our wars of unification, in the yearnings for German unity, for the fulfilment of the Barbarossa legend. A great danger to the healthy, continuous growth of our people seems to me to lie in the lack of it, and the more our political position in the world is threatened by external complications, the greater is this danger.

Extreme tension exists between the Great Powers, notwithstanding all peaceful prospects for the moment, and it is hardly to be assumed that their aspirations, which conflict at so many points and are so often pressed forward with brutal energy, will always find a pacific settlement.

In this struggle of the most powerful nations, which employ peaceful methods at first until the differences between them grow irreconcilable, our German nation is beset on all sides. This is primarily a result of our geographical position in the midst of hostile rivals, but also because we have forced ourselves, though the last-comers, the virtual upstarts, between the States which have earlier gained their place, and now claim our share in the dominion of this world, after we have for centuries been paramount only in the realm of intellect. We have thus injured a thousand interests and roused bitter hostilities. It must be reserved for a subsequent section to explain the political situation thus affected, but one point can be mentioned without further consideration: if a violent solution of existing difficulties is adopted, if the political crisis develops into military action, the Germans would have a dangerous situation in the midst of all the forces brought into play against them. On the other hand, the issue of this struggle will be decisive of Germany’s whole future as State and nation. We have the most to win or lose by such a struggle. We shall be beset by the greatest perils, and we can only emerge victoriously from this struggle against a world of hostile elements, and successfully carry through a Seven Years’ War for our position as a World Power, if we gain a start on our probable enemy as _soldiers_; if the army which will fight our battles is supported by all the material and spiritual forces of the nation; if the resolve to conquer lives not only in our troops, but in the entire united people which sends these troops to fight for all their dearest possessions.

These were the considerations which induced me to regard war from the standpoint of civilization, and to study its relation to the great tasks of the present and the future which Providence has set before the German people as the greatest civilized people known to history.

From this standpoint I must first of all examine the aspirations for peace, which seem to dominate our age and threaten to poison the soul of the German people, according to their true moral significance. I must try to prove that war is not merely a necessary element in the life of nations, but an indispensable factor of culture, in which a true civilized nation finds the highest expression of strength and vitality. I must endeavour to develop from the history of the German past in its connection with the conditions of the present those aspects of the question which may guide us into the unknown land of the future. The historical past cannot be killed; it exists and works according to inward laws, while the present, too, imposes its own drastic obligations. No one need passively submit to the pressure of circumstances; even States stand, like the Hercules of legend, at the parting of the ways. They can choose the road to progress or to decadence. “A favoured position in the world will only become effective in the life of nations by the conscious human endeavour to use it.” It seemed to me, therefore, to be necessary and profitable, at this parting of the ways of our development where we now stand, to throw what light I may on the different paths which are open to our people. A nation must fully realize the probable consequences of its action; then only can it take deliberately the great decisions for its future development, and, looking forward to its destiny with clear gaze, be prepared for any sacrifices which the present or future may demand.

These sacrifices, so far as they lie within the military and financial sphere, depend mainly on the idea of what Germany is called upon to strive for and attain in the present and the future. Only those who share my conception of the duties and obligations of the German people, and my conviction that they cannot be fulfilled without drawing the sword, will be able to estimate correctly my arguments and conclusions in the purely military sphere, and to judge competently the financial demands which spring out of it. It is only in their logical connection with the entire development, political and moral, of the State that the military requirements find their motive and their justification.



Since 1795, when Immanuel Kant published in his old age his treatise on “Perpetual Peace,” many have considered it an established fact that war is the destruction of all good and the origin of all evil. In spite of all that history teaches, no conviction is felt that the struggle between nations is inevitable, and the growth of civilization is credited with a power to which war must yield. But, undisturbed by such human theories and the change of times, war has again and again marched from country to country with the clash of arms, and has proved its destructive as well as creative and purifying power. It has not succeeded in teaching mankind what its real nature is. Long periods of war, far from convincing men of the necessity of war, have, on the contrary, always revived the wish to exclude war, where possible, from the political intercourse of nations.

This wish and this hope are widely disseminated even to-day. The maintenance of peace is lauded as the only goal at which statesmanship should aim. This unqualified desire for peace has obtained in our days a quite peculiar power over men’s spirits. This aspiration finds its public expression in peace leagues and peace congresses; the Press of every country and of every party opens its columns to it. The current in this direction is, indeed, so strong that the majority of Governments profess–outwardly, at any rate–that the necessity of maintaining peace is the real aim of their policy; while when a war breaks out the aggressor is universally stigmatized, and all Governments exert themselves, partly in reality, partly in pretence, to extinguish the conflagration.

Pacific ideals, to be sure, are seldom the real motive of their action. They usually employ the need of peace as a cloak under which to promote their own political aims. This was the real position of affairs at the Hague Congresses, and this is also the meaning of the action of the United States of America, who in recent times have earnestly tried to conclude treaties for the establishment of Arbitration Courts, first and foremost with England, but also with Japan, France, and Germany. No practical results, it must be said, have so far been achieved.

We can hardly assume that a real love of peace prompts these efforts. This is shown by the fact that precisely those Powers which, as the weaker, are exposed to aggression, and therefore were in the greatest need of international protection, have been completely passed over in the American proposals for Arbitration Courts. It must consequently be assumed that very matter-of-fact political motives led the Americans, with their commercial instincts, to take such steps, and induced “perfidious Albion” to accede to the proposals. We may suppose that England intended to protect her rear in event of a war with Germany, but that America wished to have a free hand in order to follow her policy of sovereignty in Central America without hindrance, and to carry out her plans regarding the Panama Canal in the exclusive interests of America. Both countries certainly entertained the hope of gaining advantage over the other signatory of the treaty, and of winning the lion’s share for themselves. Theorists and fanatics imagine that they see in the efforts of President Taft a great step forward on the path to perpetual peace, and enthusiastically agree with him. Even the Minister for Foreign Affairs in England, with well-affected idealism, termed the procedure of the United States an era in the history of mankind.

This desire for peace has rendered most civilized nations anemic, and marks a decay of spirit and political courage such as has often been shown by a race of Epigoni. “It has always been,” H. von Treitschke tells us, “the weary, spiritless, and exhausted ages which have played with the dream of perpetual peace.”

Everyone will, within certain limits, admit that the endeavours to diminish the dangers of war and to mitigate the sufferings which war entails are justifiable. It is an incontestable fact that war temporarily disturbs industrial life, interrupts quiet economic development, brings widespread misery with it, and emphasizes the primitive brutality of man. It is therefore a most desirable consummation if wars for trivial reasons should be rendered impossible, and if efforts are made to restrict the evils which follow necessarily in the train of war, so far as is compatible with the essential nature of war. All that the Hague Peace Congress has accomplished in this limited sphere deserves, like every permissible humanization of war, universal acknowledgment. But it is quite another matter if the object is to abolish war entirely, and to deny its necessary place in historical development.

This aspiration is directly antagonistic to the great universal laws which rule all life. War is a biological necessity of the first importance, a regulative element in the life of mankind which cannot be dispensed with, since without it an unhealthy development will follow, which excludes every advancement of the race, and therefore all real civilization. “War is the father of all things.” [A] The sages of antiquity long before Darwin recognized this.

[Footnote A: (Heraclitus of Ephesus).]

The struggle for existence is, in the life of Nature, the basis of all healthy development. All existing things show themselves to be the result of contesting forces. So in the life of man the struggle is not merely the destructive, but the life-giving principle. “To supplant or to be supplanted is the essence of life,” says Goethe, and the strong life gains the upper hand. The law of the stronger holds good everywhere. Those forms survive which are able to procure themselves the most favourable conditions of life, and to assert themselves in the universal economy of Nature. The weaker succumb. This struggle is regulated and restrained by the unconscious sway of biological laws and by the interplay of opposite forces. In the plant world and the animal world this process is worked out in unconscious tragedy. In the human race it is consciously carried out, and regulated by social ordinances. The man of strong will and strong intellect tries by every means to assert himself, the ambitious strive to rise, and in this effort the individual is far from being guided merely by the consciousness of right. The life-work and the life-struggle of many men are determined, doubtless, by unselfish and ideal motives, but to a far greater extent the less noble passions–craving for possessions, enjoyment and honour, envy and the thirst for revenge–determine men’s actions. Still more often, perhaps, it is the need to live which brings down even natures of a higher mould into the universal struggle for existence and enjoyment.

There can be no doubt on this point. The nation is made up of individuals, the State of communities. The motive which influences each member is prominent in the whole body. It is a persistent struggle for possessions, power, and sovereignty, which primarily governs the relations of one nation to another, and right is respected so far only as it is compatible with advantage. So long as there are men who have human feelings and aspirations, so long as there are nations who strive for an enlarged sphere of activity, so long will conflicting interests come into being and occasions for making war arise.

“The natural law, to which all laws of Nature can be reduced, is the law of struggle. All intrasocial property, all thoughts, inventions, and institutions, as, indeed, the social system itself, are a result of the intrasocial struggle, in which one survives and another is cast out. The extrasocial, the supersocial, struggle which guides the external development of societies, nations, and races, is war. The internal development, the intrasocial struggle, is man’s daily work–the struggle of thoughts, feelings, wishes, sciences, activities. The outward development, the supersocial struggle, is the sanguinary struggle of nations–war. In what does the creative power of this struggle consist? In growth and decay, in the victory of the one factor and in the defeat of the other! This struggle is a creator, since it eliminates.” [B]

[Footnote B: Clauss Wagner, “Der Krieg als schaffendes Weltprinzip.”]

That social system in which the most efficient personalities possess the greatest influence will show the greatest vitality in the intrasocial struggle. In the extrasocial struggle, in war, that nation will conquer which can throw into the scale the greatest physical, mental, moral, material, and political power, and is therefore the best able to defend itself. War will furnish such a nation with favourable vital conditions, enlarged possibilities of expansion and widened influence, and thus promote the progress of mankind; for it is clear that those intellectual and moral factors which insure superiority in war are also those which render possible a general progressive development. They confer victory because the elements of progress are latent in them. Without war, inferior or decaying races would easily choke the growth of healthy budding elements, and a universal decadence would follow. “War,” says A. W. von Schlegel, “is as necessary as the struggle of the elements in Nature.”

Now, it is, of course, an obvious fact that a peaceful rivalry may exist between peoples and States, like that between the fellow-members of a society, in all departments of civilized life–a struggle which need not always degenerate Into war. Struggle and war are not identical. This rivalry, however, does not take place under the same conditions as the intrasocial struggle, and therefore cannot lead to the same results. Above the rivalry of individuals and groups within the State stands the law, which takes care that injustice is kept within bounds, and that the right shall prevail. Behind the law stands the State, armed with power, which it employs, and rightly so, not merely to protect, but actively to promote, the moral and spiritual interests of society. But there is no impartial power that stands above the rivalry of States to restrain injustice, and to use that rivalry with conscious purpose to promote the highest ends of mankind. Between States the only check on injustice is force, and in morality and civilization each people must play its own part and promote its own ends and ideals. If in doing so it comes into conflict with the ideals and views of other States, it must either submit and concede the precedence to the rival people or State, or appeal to force, and face the risk of the real struggle–i.e., of war–in order to make its own views prevail. No power exists which can judge between States, and makes its judgments prevail. Nothing, in fact, is left but war to secure to the true elements of progress the ascendancy over the spirits of corruption and decay.

It will, of course, happen that several weak nations unite and form a superior combination in order to defeat a nation which in itself is stronger. This attempt will succeed for a time, but in the end the more intensive vitality will prevail. The allied opponents have the seeds of corruption in them, while the powerful nation gains from a temporary reverse a new strength which procures for it an ultimate victory over numerical superiority. The history of Germany is an eloquent example of this truth.

Struggle is, therefore, a universal law of Nature, and the instinct of self-preservation which leads to struggle is acknowledged to be a natural condition of existence. “Man is a fighter.” Self-sacrifice is a renunciation of life, whether in the existence of the individual or in the life of States, which are agglomerations of individuals. The first and paramount law is the assertion of one’s own independent existence. By self-assertion alone can the State maintain the conditions of life for its citizens, and insure them the legal protection which each man is entitled to claim from it. This duty of self-assertion is by no means satisfied by the mere repulse of hostile attacks; it includes the obligation to assure the possibility of life and development to the whole body of the nation embraced by the State.

Strong, healthy, and flourishing nations increase in numbers. From a given moment they require a continual expansion of their frontiers, they require new territory for the accommodation of their surplus population. Since almost every part of the globe is inhabited, new territory must, as a rule, be obtained at the cost of its possessors–that is to say, by conquest, which thus becomes a law of necessity.

The right of conquest is universally acknowledged. At first the procedure is pacific. Over-populated countries pour a stream of emigrants into other States and territories. These submit to the legislature of the new country, but try to obtain favourable conditions of existence for themselves at the cost of the original inhabitants, with whom they compete. This amounts to conquest.

The right of colonization is also recognized. Vast territories inhabited by uncivilized masses are occupied by more highly civilized States, and made subject to their rule. Higher civilization and the correspondingly greater power are the foundations of the right to annexation. This right is, it is true, a very indefinite one, and it is impossible to determine what degree of civilization justifies annexation and subjugation. The impossibility of finding a legitimate limit to these international relations has been the cause of many wars. The subjugated nation does not recognize this right of subjugation, and the more powerful civilized nation refuses to admit the claim of the subjugated to independence. This situation becomes peculiarly critical when the conditions of civilization have changed in the course of time. The subject nation has, perhaps, adopted higher methods and conceptions of life, and the difference in civilization has consequently lessened. Such a state of things is growing ripe in British India.

Lastly, in all times the right of conquest by war has been admitted. It may be that a growing people cannot win colonies from uncivilized races, and yet the State wishes to retain the surplus population which the mother-country can no longer feed. Then the only course left is to acquire the necessary territory by war. Thus the instinct of self-preservation leads inevitably to war, and the conquest of foreign soil. It is not the possessor, but the victor, who then has the right. The threatened people will see the point of Goethe’s lines:

“That which them didst inherit from thy sires, In order to possess it, must be won.”

The procedure of Italy in Tripoli furnishes an example of such conditions, while Germany in the Morocco question could not rouse herself to a similar resolution.[C]

[Footnote C: This does not imply that Germany could and ought to have occupied part of Morocco. On more than one ground I think that it was imperative to maintain the actual sovereignty of this State on the basis of the Algeciras Convention. Among other advantages, which need not be discussed here, Germany would have had the country secured to her as a possible sphere of colonization. That would have set up justifiable claims for the future.]

In such cases might gives the right to occupy or to conquer. Might is at once the supreme right, and the dispute as to what is right is decided by the arbitrament of war. War gives a biologically just decision, since its decisions rest on the very nature of things.

Just as increase of population forms under certain circumstances a convincing argument for war, so industrial conditions may compel the same result.

In America, England, Germany, to mention only the chief commercial countries, industries offer remunerative work to great masses of the population. The native population cannot consume all the products of this work. The industries depend, therefore, mainly on exportation. Work and employment are secured so long as they find markets which gladly accept their products, since they are paid for by the foreign country. But this foreign country is intensely interested in liberating itself from such tribute, and in producing itself all that it requires. We find, therefore, a general endeavour to call home industries into existence, and to protect them by tariff barriers; and, on the other hand, the foreign country tries to keep the markets open to itself, to crush or cripple competing industries, and thus to retain the consumer for itself or win fresh ones. It is an embittered struggle which rages in the market of the world. It has already often assumed definite hostile forms in tariff wars, and the future will certainly intensify this struggle. Great commercial countries will, on the one hand, shut their doors more closely to outsiders, and countries hitherto on the down-grade will develop home industries, which, under more favourable conditions of labour and production, will be able to supply goods cheaper than those imported from the old industrial States. These latter will see their position in these world markets endangered, and thus it may well happen that an export country can no longer offer satisfactory conditions of life to its workers. Such a State runs the danger not only of losing a valuable part of its population by emigration, but of also gradually falling from its supremacy in the civilized and political world through diminishing production and lessened profits.

In this respect we stand to-day at the threshold of a development. We cannot reject the possibility that a State, under the necessity of providing remunerative work for its population, may be driven into war. If more valuable advantages than even now is the case had been at stake in Morocco, and had our export trade been seriously menaced, Germany would hardly have conceded to France the most favourable position in the Morocco market without a struggle. England, doubtless, would not shrink from a war to the knife, just as she fought for the ownership of the South African goldfields and diamond-mines, if any attack threatened her Indian market, the control of which is the foundation of her world sovereignty. The knowledge, therefore, that war depends on biological laws leads to the conclusion that every attempt to exclude it from international relations must be demonstrably untenable. But it is not only a biological law, but a moral obligation, and, as such, an indispensable factor in civilization.

The attitude which is adopted towards this idea is closely connected with the view of life generally.

If we regard the life of the individual or of the nation as something purely material, as an incident which terminates in death and outward decay, we must logically consider that the highest goal which man can attain is the enjoyment of the most happy life and the greatest possible diminution of all bodily suffering. The State will be regarded as a sort of assurance office, which guarantees a life of undisturbed possession and enjoyment in the widest meaning of the word. We must endorse the view which Wilhelm von Humboldt professed in his treatise on the limits of the activity of the State.[D] The compulsory functions of the State must be limited to the assurance of property and life. The State will be considered as a law-court, and the individual will be inclined to shun war as the greatest conceivable evil.

[Footnote D: W. von Humboldt, “Ideen zu einem Versuch, die Grenzen der Wirksamkelt des Staates zu bestimmen.”]

If, on the contrary, we consider the life of men and of States as merely a fraction of a collective existence, whose final purpose does not rest on enjoyment, but on the development of intellectual and moral powers, and if we look upon all enjoyment merely as an accessory of the chequered conditions of life, the task of the State will appear in a very different light. The State will not be to us merely a legal and social insurance office, political union will not seem to us to have the one object of bringing the advantages of civilization within the reach of the individual; we shall assign to it the nobler task of raising the intellectual and moral powers of a nation to the highest expansion, and of securing for them that influence on the world which tends to the combined progress of humanity. We shall see in the State, as Fichte taught, an exponent of liberty to the human race, whose task it is to put into practice the moral duty on earth. “The State,” says Treitschke, “is a moral community. It is called upon to educate the human race by positive achievement, and its ultimate object is that a nation should develop in it and through it into a real character; that is, alike for nation and individuals, the highest moral task.”

This highest expansion can never be realized in pure individualism. Man can only develop his highest capacities when he takes his part in a community, in a social organism, for which he lives and works. He must be in a family, in a society, in the State, which draws the individual out of the narrow circles in which he otherwise would pass his life, and makes him a worker in the great common interests of humanity. The State alone, so Schleiermacher once taught, gives the individual the highest degree of life.[E]

[Footnote E: To expand the idea of the State into that of humanity, and thus to entrust apparently higher duties to the individual, leads to error, since in a human race conceived as a whole struggle and, by Implication, the most essential vital principle would be ruled out. Any action in favour of collective humanity outside the limits of the State and nationality is impossible. Such conceptions belong to the wide domain of Utopias.]

War, from this standpoint, will be regarded as a moral necessity, if it is waged to protect the highest and most valuable interests of a nation. As human life is now constituted, it is political idealism which calls for war, while materialism–in theory, at least–repudiates it.

If we grasp the conception of the State from this higher aspect, we shall soon see that it cannot attain its great moral ends unless its political power increases. The higher object at which it aims is closely correlated to the advancement of its material interests. It is only the State which strives after an enlarged sphere of influence that creates the conditions under which mankind develops into the most splendid perfection. The development of all the best human capabilities and qualities can only find scope on the great stage of action which power creates. But when the State renounces all extension of power, and recoils from every war which is necessary for its expansion; when it is content to exist, and no longer wishes to grow; when “at peace on sluggard’s couch it lies,” then its citizens become stunted. The efforts of each individual are cramped, and the broad aspect of things is lost. This is sufficiently exemplified by the pitiable existence of all small States, and every great Power that mistrusts itself falls victim to the same curse.

All petty and personal interests force their way to the front during a long period of peace. Selfishness and intrigue run riot, and luxury obliterates idealism. Money acquires an excessive and unjustifiable power, and character does not obtain due respect:

“Man is stunted by peaceful days,
In idle repose his courage decays. Law is the weakling’s game.
Law makes the world the same.
But in war man’s strength is seen, War ennobles all that is mean;
Even the coward belies his name.”
SCHILLER: _Braut v. Messina_.

“Wars are terrible, but necessary, for they save the State from social petrifaction and stagnation. It is well that the transitoriness of the goods of this world is not only preached, but is learnt by experience. War alone teaches this lesson.” [F]

[Footnote F: Kuno Fischer, “Hegel,” i., p. 737.]

War, in opposition to peace, does more to arouse national life and to expand national power than any other means known to history. It certainly brings much material and mental distress in its train, but at the same time it evokes the noblest activities of the human nature. This is especially so under present-day conditions, when it can be regarded not merely as the affair of Sovereigns and Governments, but as the expression of the united will of a whole nation.

All petty private interests shrink into insignificance before the grave decision which a war involves. The common danger unites all in a common effort, and the man who shirks this duty to the community is deservedly spurned. This union contains a liberating power which produces happy and permanent results in the national life. We need only recall the uniting power of the War of Liberation or the Franco-German War and their historical consequences. The brutal incidents inseparable from every war vanish completely before the idealism of the main result. All the sham reputations which a long spell of peace undoubtedly fosters are unmasked. Great personalities take their proper place; strength, truth, and honour come to the front and are put into play. “A thousand touching traits testify to the sacred power of the love which a righteous war awakes in noble nations.” [G]

[Footnote G: Treitschke, “Deutsche Geschichte,” i., p. 482.]

Frederick the Great recognized the ennobling effect of war. “War,” he said, “opens the most fruitful field to all virtues, for at every moment constancy, pity, magnanimity, heroism, and mercy, shine forth in it; every moment offers an opportunity to exercise one of these virtues.”

“At the moment when the State cries out that its very life is at stake, social selfishness must cease and party hatred be hushed. The individual must forget his egoism, and feel that he is a member of the whole body. He should recognize how his own life is nothing worth in comparison with the welfare of the community. War is elevating, because the individual disappears before the great conception of the State. The devotion of the members of a community to each other is nowhere so splendidly conspicuous as in war…. What a perversion of morality to wish to abolish heroism among men!” [H]

[Footnote H: Treitschke, “Politik” i., p. 74.]

Even defeat may bear a rich harvest. It often, indeed, passes an irrevocable sentence on weakness and misery, but often, too, it leads to a healthy revival, and lays the foundation of a new and vigorous constitution. “I recognize in the effect of war upon national character,” said Wilhelm von Humboldt, “one of the most salutary elements in the moulding of the human race.”

The individual can perform no nobler moral action than to pledge his life on his convictions, and to devote his own existence to the cause which he serves, or even to the conception of the value of ideals to personal morality. Similarly, nations and States can achieve no loftier consummation than to stake their whole power on upholding their independence, their honour, and their reputation.

Such sentiments, however, can only be put into practice in war. The possibility of war is required to give the national character that stimulus from which these sentiments spring, and thus only are nations enabled to do justice to the highest duties of civilization by the fullest development of their moral forces. An intellectual and vigorous nation can experience no worse destiny than to be lulled into a Phaecian existence by the undisputed enjoyment of peace.

From this point of view, efforts to secure peace are extraordinarily detrimental to the national health so soon as they influence politics. The States which from various considerations are always active in this direction are sapping the roots of their own strength. The United States of America, e.g., in June, 1911, championed the ideas of universal peace in order to be able to devote their undisturbed attention to money-making and the enjoyment of wealth, and to save the three hundred million dollars which they spend on their army and navy; they thus incur a great danger, not so much from the possibility of a war with England or Japan, but precisely because they try to exclude all chance of contest with opponents of their own strength, and thus avoid the stress of great political emotions, without which the moral development of the national character is impossible. If they advance farther on this road, they will one day pay dearly for such a policy.

Again, from the Christian standpoint we arrive at the same conclusion. Christian morality is based, indeed, on the law of love. “Love God above all things, and thy neighbour as thyself.” This law can claim no significance for the relations of one country to another, since its application to politics would lead to a conflict of duties. The love which a man showed to another country as such would imply a want of love for his own countrymen. Such a system of politics must inevitably lead men astray. Christian morality is personal and social, and in its nature cannot be political. Its object is to promote morality of the individual, in order to strengthen him to work unselfishly in the interests of the community. It tells us to love our individual enemies, but does not remove the conception of enmity. Christ Himself said: “I am not come to send peace on earth, but a sword.” His teaching can never be adduced as an argument against the universal law of struggle. There never was a religion which was more combative than Christianity. Combat, moral combat, is its very essence. If we transfer the ideas of Christianity to the sphere of politics, we can claim to raise the power of the State–power in the widest sense, not merely from the material aspect–to the highest degree, with the object of the moral advancement of humanity, and under certain conditions the sacrifice may be made which a war demands. Thus, according to Christianity, we cannot disapprove of war in itself, but must admit that it is justified morally and historically.

Again, we should not be entitled to assume that from the opposite, the purely materialistic, standpoint war is entirely precluded. The individual who holds such views will certainly regard it with disfavour, since it may cost him life and prosperity. The State, however, as such can also come from the materialistic standpoint to a decision to wage war, if it believes that by a certain sacrifice of human lives and happiness the conditions of life of the community may be improved.

The loss is restricted to comparatively few, and, since the fundamental notion of all materialistic philosophy inevitably leads to selfishness, the majority of the citizens have no reason for not sacrificing the minority in their own interests. Thus, those who from the materialistic standpoint deny the necessity of war will admit its expediency from motives of self-interest.

Reflection thus shows not only that war is an unqualified necessity, but that it is justifiable from every point of view. The practical methods which the adherents of the peace idea have proposed for the prevention of war are shown to be absolutely ineffective.

It is sometimes assumed that every war represents an infringement of rights, and that not only the highest expression of civilization, but also the true welfare of every nation, is involved in the fullest assertion of these rights, and proposals are made from time to time on this basis to settle the disputes which arise between the various countries by Arbitration Courts, and so to render war impossible. The politician who, without side-interests in these proposals, honestly believes in their practicability must be amazingly short-sighted.

Two questions in this connection are at once suggested: On what right is the finding of this Arbitration Court based? and what sanctions insure that the parties will accept this finding?

To the first question the answer is that such a right does not, and cannot, exist. The conception of right is twofold. It signifies, firstly, the consciousness of right, the living feeling of what is right and good; secondly, the right laid down by society and the State, either written or sanctioned by tradition. In its first meaning it is an indefinite, purely personal conception; in its second meaning it is variable and capable of development. The right determined by law is only an attempt to secure a right in itself. In this sense right is the system of social aims secured by compulsion. It is therefore impossible that a written law should meet all the special points of a particular case. The application of the legal right must always be qualified in order to correspond more or less to the idea of justice. A certain freedom in deciding on the particular case must be conceded to the administration of justice. The established law, within a given and restricted circle of ideas, is only occasionally absolutely just.

The conception of this right is still more obscured by the complex nature of the consciousness of right and wrong. A quite different consciousness of right and wrong develops in individuals, whether persons or peoples, and this consciousness finds its expression in most varied forms, and lives in the heart of the people by the side of, and frequently in opposition to, the established law. In Christian countries murder is a grave crime; amongst a people where blood-vengeance is a sacred duty it can be regarded as a moral act, and its neglect as a crime. It is impossible to reconcile such different conceptions of right.

There is yet another cause of uncertainty. The moral consciousness of the same people alters with the changing ideas of different epochs and schools of philosophy. The established law can seldom keep pace with this inner development, this growth of moral consciousness; it lags behind. A condition of things arises where the living moral consciousness of the people conflicts with the established law, where legal forms are superannuated, but still exist, and Mephistopheles’ scoffing words are true:

“Laws are transmitted, as one sees,
Just like inherited disease.
They’re handed down from race to race, And noiseless glide from place to place. Reason they turn to nonsense; worse,
They make beneficence a curse!
Ah me! That you’re a grandson you
As long as you’re alive shall rue.” _Faust_ (translation by Sir T. Martin).

Thus, no absolute rights can be laid down even for men who share the same ideas in their private and social intercourse. The conception of the constitutional State in the strictest sense is an impossibility, and would lead to an intolerable state of things. The hard and fast principle must be modified by the progressive development of the fixed law, as well as by the ever-necessary application of mercy and of self-help allowed by the community. If sometimes between individuals the duel alone meets the sense of justice, how much more impossible must a universal international law be in the wide-reaching and complicated relations between nations and States! Each nation evolves its own conception of right, each has its particular ideals and aims, which spring with a certain inevitableness from its character and historical life. These various views bear in themselves their living justification, and may well be diametrically opposed to those of other nations, and none can say that one nation has a better right than the other. There never have been, and never will be, universal rights of men. Here and there particular relations can be brought under definite international laws, but the bulk of national life is absolutely outside codification. Even were some such attempt made, even if a comprehensive international code were drawn up, no self-respecting nation would sacrifice its own conception of right to it. By so doing it would renounce its highest ideals; it would allow its own sense of justice to be violated by an injustice, and thus dishonour itself.

Arbitration treaties must be peculiarly detrimental to an aspiring people, which has not yet reached its political and national zenith, and is bent on expanding its power in order to play its part honourably in the civilized world. Every Arbitration Court must originate in a certain political status; it must regard this as legally constituted, and must treat any alterations, however necessary, to which the whole of the contracting parties do not agree, as an encroachment. In this way every progressive change is arrested, and a legal position created which may easily conflict with the actual turn of affairs, and may check the expansion of the young and vigorous State in favour of one which is sinking in the scale of civilization.

These considerations supply the answer to the second decisive question: How can the judgment of the Arbitration Court be enforced if any State refuses to submit to it? Where does the power reside which insures the execution of this judgment when pronounced?

In America, Elihu Root, formerly Secretary of State, declared in 1908 that the High Court of International Justice established by the second Hague Conference would be able to pronounce definite and binding decisions by virtue of the pressure brought to bear by public opinion. The present leaders of the American peace movement seem to share this idea. With a childlike self-consciousness, they appear to believe that public opinion must represent the view which the American plutocrats think most profitable to themselves. They have no notion that the widening development of mankind has quite other concerns than material prosperity, commerce, and money-making. As a matter of fact, public opinion would be far from unanimous, and real compulsion could only be employed by means of war–the very thing which is to be avoided.

We can imagine a Court of Arbitration intervening in the quarrels of the separate tributary countries when an empire like the Roman Empire existed. Such an empire never can or will arise again. Even if it did, it would assuredly, like a universal peace league, be disastrous to all human progress, which is dependent on the clashing interests and the unchecked rivalry of different groups.

So long as we live under such a State system as at present, the German Imperial Chancellor certainly hit the nail on the head when he declared, in his speech in the Reichstag on March 30, 1911, that treaties for arbitration between nations must be limited to clearly ascertainable legal issues, and that a general arbitration treaty between two countries afforded no guarantee of permanent peace. Such a treaty merely proved that between the two contracting States no serious inducement to break the peace could be imagined. It therefore only confirmed the relations already existing. “If these relations change, if differences develop between the two nations which affect their national existence, which, to use a homely phrase, cut them to the quick, then every arbitration treaty will burn like tinder and end in smoke.”

It must be borne in mind that a peaceful decision by an Arbitration Court can never replace in its effects and consequences a warlike decision, even as regards the State in whose favour it is pronounced. If we imagine, for example, that Silesia had fallen to Frederick the Great by the finding of a Court of Arbitration, and not by a war of unparalleled heroism, would the winning of this province have been equally important for Prussia and for Germany? No one will maintain this.

The material increase in power which accrued to Frederick’s country by the acquisition of Silesia is not to be underestimated. But far more important was the circumstance that this country could not be conquered by the strongest European coalition, and that it vindicated its position as the home of unfettered intellectual and religious development. It was war which laid the foundations of Prussia’s power, which amassed a heritage of glory and honour that can never be again disputed. War forged that Prussia, hard as steel, on which the New Germany could grow up as a mighty European State and a World Power of the future. Here once more war showed its creative power, and if we learn the lessons of history we shall see the same result again and again.

If we sum up our arguments, we shall see that, from the most opposite aspects, the efforts directed towards the abolition of war must not only be termed foolish, but absolutely immoral, and must be stigmatized as unworthy of the human race. To what does the whole question amount? It is proposed to deprive men of the right and the possibility to sacrifice their highest material possessions, their physical life, for ideals, and thus to realize the highest moral unselfishness. It is proposed to obviate the great quarrels between nations and States by Courts of Arbitration–that is, by arrangements. A one-sided, restricted, formal law is to be established in the place of the decisions of history. The weak nation is to have the same right to live as the powerful and vigorous nation. The whole idea represents a presumptuous encroachment on the natural laws of development, which can only lead to the most disastrous consequences for humanity generally.

With the cessation of the unrestricted competition, whose ultimate appeal is to arms, all real progress would soon be checked, and a moral and intellectual stagnation would ensue which must end in degeneration. So, too, when men lose the capacity of gladly sacrificing the highest material blessings–life, health, property, and comfort–for ideals; for the maintenance of national character and political independence; for the expansion of sovereignty and territory in the interests of the national welfare; for a definite influence in the concert of nations according to the scale of their importance in civilization; for intellectual freedom from dogmatic and political compulsion; for the honour of the flag as typical of their own worth–then progressive development is broken off, decadence is inevitable, and ruin at home and abroad is only a question of time. History speaks with no uncertain voice on this subject. It shows that valour is a necessary condition of progress. Where with growing civilization and increasing material prosperity war ceases, military efficiency diminishes, and the resolution to maintain independence under all circumstances fails, there the nations are approaching their downfall, and cannot hold their own politically or racially.

“A people can only hope to take up a firm position in the political world when national character and military tradition act and react upon each.” These are the words of Clausewitz, the great philosopher of war, and he is incontestably right.

These efforts for peace would, if they attained their goal, not merely lead to general degeneration, as happens everywhere in Nature where the struggle for existence is eliminated, but they have a direct damaging and unnerving effect. The apostles of peace draw large sections of a nation into the spell of their Utopian efforts, and they thus introduce an element of weakness into the national life; they cripple the justifiable national pride in independence, and support a nerveless opportunist policy by surrounding it with the glamour of a higher humanity, and by offering it specious reasons for disguising its own weakness. They thus play the game of their less scrupulous enemies, just as the Prussian policy, steeped in the ideas of universal peace, did in 1805 and 1806, and brought the State to the brink of destruction.

The functions of true humanity are twofold. On the one hand there is the promotion of the intellectual, moral, and military forces, as well as of political power, as the surest guarantee for the uniform development of character; on the other hand there is the practical realization of ideals, according to the law of love, in the life of the individual and of the community.

It seems to me reasonable to compare the efforts directed towards the suppression of war with those of the Social Democratic Labour party, which goes hand in hand with them. The aims of both parties are Utopian. The organized Labour party strives after an ideal whose realization is only conceivable when the rate of wages and the hours of work are settled internationally for the whole industrial world, and when the cost of living is everywhere uniformly regulated. Until this is the case the prices of the international market determine the standard of wages. The nation which leaves this out of account, and tries to settle independently wages and working hours, runs the risk of losing its position in the international market in competition with nations who work longer hours and at lower rates. Want of employment and extreme misery among the working classes would inevitably be the result. On the other hand, the internationalization of industries would soon, by excluding and preventing any competition, produce a deterioration of products and a profound demoralization of the working population.

The case of the scheme for universal peace is similar. Its execution, as we saw, would be only feasible in a world empire, and this is as impossible as the uniform regulation of the world’s industries. A State which disregarded the differently conceived notions of neighbouring countries, and wished to make the idea of universal peace the guiding rule for its policy, would only inflict a fatal injury on itself, and become the prey of more resolute and warlike neighbours.

We can, fortunately, assert the impossibility of these efforts after peace ever attaining their ultimate object in a world bristling with arms, where a healthy egotism still directs the policy of most countries. “God will see to it,” says Treitschke,[I] “that war always recurs as a drastic medicine for the human race!”

[Footnote I: Treitschke, “Politik,” i., p. 76.]

Nevertheless, these tendencies spell for us in Germany no inconsiderable danger. We Germans are inclined to indulge in every sort of unpractical dreams. “The accuracy of the national instinct is no longer a universal attribute with us, as in France.” [J] We lack the true feeling for political exigencies. A deep social and religious gulf divides the German people into different political groups, which are bitterly antagonistic to each other. The traditional feuds in the political world still endure. The agitation for peace introduces a new element of weakness, dissension, and indecision, into the divisions of our national and party life.

[Footnote J: Treitschke, “Politik,” i., p. 81.]

It is indisputable that many supporters of these ideas sincerely believe in the possibility of their realization, and are convinced that the general good is being advanced by them. Equally true is it, however, that this peace movement is often simply used to mask intensely selfish political projects. Its apparent humanitarian idealism constitutes its danger.

Every means must therefore be employed to oppose these visionary schemes. They must be publicly denounced as what they really are–as an unhealthy and feeble Utopia, or a cloak for political machinations. Our people must learn to see that _the maintenance of peace never can or may be the goal of a policy_. The policy of a great State has positive aims. It will endeavour to attain this by pacific measures so long as that is possible and profitable. It must not only be conscious that in momentous questions which influence definitely the entire development of a nation, the appeal to arms is a sacred right of the State, but it must keep this conviction fresh in the national consciousness. The inevitableness, the idealism, and the blessing of war, as an indispensable and stimulating law of development, must be repeatedly emphasized. The apostles of the peace idea must be confronted with Goethe’s manly words:

“Dreams of a peaceful day?
Let him dream who may!
‘War’ is our rallying cry,
Onward to victory!”



Prince Bismarck repeatedly declared before the German Reichstag that no one should ever take upon himself the immense responsibility of intentionally bringing about a war. It could not, he said, be foreseen what unexpected events might occur, which altered the whole situation, and made a war, with its attendant dangers and horrors, superfluous. In his “Thoughts and Reminiscences” he expresses himself to this effect: “Even victorious wars can only be justified when they are forced upon a nation, and we cannot see the cards held by Providence so closely as to anticipate the historical development by personal calculation.” [A]

[Footnote A: “Gedanken und Erinnerungen,” vol. ii., p. 93.]

We need not discuss whether Prince Bismarck wished this dictum to be regarded as a universally applicable principle, or whether he uttered it as a supplementary explanation of the peace policy which he carried out for so long. It is difficult to gauge its true import. The notion of forcing a war upon a nation bears various interpretations. We must not think merely of external foes who compel us to fight. A war may seem to be forced upon a statesman by the state of home affairs, or by the pressure of the whole political situation.

Prince Bismarck did not, however, always act according to the strict letter of that speech; it is his special claim to greatness that at the decisive moment he did not lack the boldness to begin a war on his own initiative. The thought which he expresses in his later utterances cannot, in my opinion, be shown to be a universally applicable principle of political conduct. If we wish to regard it as such, we shall not only run counter to the ideas of our greatest German Prince, but we exclude from politics that independence of action which is the true motive force.

The greatness of true statesmanship consists in a knowledge of the natural trend of affairs, and in a just appreciation of the value of the controlling forces, which it uses and guides in its own interest. It does not shrink from the conflicts, which under the given conditions are unavoidable, but decides them resolutely by war when a favourable position affords prospect of a successful issue. In this way statecraft becomes a tool of Providence, which employs the human will to attain its ends. “Men make history,” [B] as Bismarck’s actions clearly show.

[Footnote B: Treitschke, “Deutsche Geschichte,” i., p. 28.]

No doubt the most strained political situation may unexpectedly admit of a peaceful solution. The death of some one man, the setting of some great ambition, the removal of some master-will, may be enough to change it fundamentally. But the great disputes in the life of a nation cannot be settled so simply. The man who wished to bring the question to a decisive issue may disappear, and the political crisis pass for the moment; the disputed points still exist, and lead once more to quarrels, and finally to war, if they are due to really great and irreconcilable interests. With the death of King Edward VII. of England the policy of isolation, which he introduced with much adroit statesmanship against Germany, has broken down. The antagonism of Germany and England, based on the conflict of the interests and claims of the two nations, still persists, although the diplomacy which smoothes down, not always profitably, all causes of difference has succeeded in slackening the tension for the moment, not without sacrifices on the side of Germany.

It is clearly an untenable proposition that political action should depend on indefinite possibilities. A completely vague factor would be thus arbitrarily introduced into politics, which have already many unknown quantities to reckon with; they would thus be made more or less dependent on chance.

It may be, then, assumed as obvious that the great practical politician Bismarck did not wish that his words on the political application of war should be interpreted in the sense which has nowadays so frequently been attributed to them, in order to lend the authority of the great man to a weak cause. Only those conditions which can be ascertained and estimated should determine political action.

For the moral justification of the political decision we must not look to its possible consequences, but to its aim and its motives, to the conditions assumed by the agent, and to the trustworthiness, honour, and sincerity of the considerations which led to action. Its practical value is determined by an accurate grasp of the whole situation, by a correct estimate of the resources of the two parties, by a clear anticipation of the probable results–in short, by statesmanlike insight and promptness of decision.

If the statesman acts in this spirit, he will have an acknowledged right, under certain circumstances, to begin a war, regarded as necessary, at the most favourable moment, and to secure for his country the proud privilege of such initiative. If a war, on which a Minister cannot willingly decide, is bound to be fought later under possibly far more unfavourable conditions, a heavy responsibility for the greater sacrifices that must then be made will rest on those whose strength and courage for decisive political action failed at the favourable moment. In the face of such considerations a theory by which a war ought never to be brought about falls to the ground. And yet this theory has in our day found many supporters, especially in Germany.

Even statesmen who consider that the complete abolition of war is impossible, and do not believe that the _ultima ratio_ can be banished from the life of nations, hold the opinion that its advent should be postponed so long as possible.[C]

[Footnote C: Speech of the Imperial Chancellor, v. Bethmann-Hollweg, on March 30, 1911. In his speech of November 9, 1911, the Imperial Chancellor referred to the above-quoted words of Prince Bismarck in order to obtain a peaceful solution of the Morocco question.]

Those who favour this view take up approximately the same attitude as the supporters of the Peace idea, so far as regarding war exclusively as a curse, and ignoring or underestimating its creative and civilizing importance. According to this view, a war recognized as inevitable must be postponed so long as possible, and no statesman is entitled to use exceptionally favourable conditions in order to realize necessary and justifiable aspirations by force of arms.

Such theories only too easily disseminate the false and ruinous notion that the maintenance of peace is the ultimate object, or at least the chief duty, of any policy.

To such views, the offspring of a false humanity, the clear and definite answer must be made that, under certain circumstances, it is not only the right, but the moral and political duty of the statesman to bring about a war.

Wherever we open the pages of history we find proofs of the fact that wars, begun at the right moment with manly resolution, have effected the happiest results, both politically and socially. A feeble policy has always worked harm, since the statesman lacked the requisite firmness to take the risk of a necessary war, since he tried by diplomatic tact to adjust the differences of irreconcilable foes, and deceived himself as to the gravity of the situation and the real importance of the matter. Our own recent history in its vicissitudes supplies us with the most striking examples of this.

The Great Elector laid the foundations of Prussia’s power by successful and deliberately incurred wars. Frederick the Great followed in the steps of his glorious ancestor. “He noticed how his state occupied an untenable middle position between the petty states and the great Powers, and showed his determination to give a definite character (_decider cet etre_) to this anomalous existence; it had become essential to enlarge the territory of the State and _corriger la figure de la Prusse_, if Prussia wished to be independent and to bear with honour the great name of ‘Kingdom.'” [D] The King made allowance for this political necessity, and took the bold determination of challenging Austria to fight. None of the wars which he fought had been forced upon him; none of them did he postpone as long as possible. He had always determined to be the aggressor, to anticipate his opponents, and to secure for himself favourable prospects of success. We all know what he achieved. The whole history of the growth of the European nations and of mankind generally would have been changed had the King lacked that heroic power of decision which he showed.

[Footnote D Treitschke, “Deutsche Geschichte,” i., p. 51.]

We see a quite different development under the reign of Frederick William III., beginning with the year of weakness 1805, of which our nation cannot be too often reminded.

It was manifest that war with Napoleon could not permanently be avoided. Nevertheless, in spite of the French breach of neutrality, the Prussian Government could not make up its mind to hurry to the help of the allied Russians and Austrians, but tried to maintain peace, though at a great moral cost. According to all human calculation, the participation of Prussia in the war of 1805 would have given the Allies a decisive superiority. The adherence to neutrality led to the crash of 1806, and would have meant the final overthrow of Prussia as a State had not the moral qualities still existed there which Frederick the Great had ingrained on her by his wars. At the darkest moment of defeat they shone most brightly. In spite of the political downfall, the effects of Frederick’s victories kept that spirit alive with which he had inspired his State and his people. This is clearly seen in the quite different attitude of the Prussian people and the other Germans under the degrading yoke of the Napoleonic tyranny. The power which had been acquired by the Prussians through long and glorious wars showed itself more valuable than all the material blessings which peace created; it was not to be broken down by the defeat of 1806, and rendered possible the heroic revival of 1813.

The German wars of Unification also belong to the category of wars which, in spite of a thousand sacrifices, bring forth a rich harvest. The instability and political weakness which the Prussian Government showed in 1848, culminating in the disgrace of Olmuetz in 1850, had deeply shaken the political and national importance of Prussia. On the other hand, the calm conscious strength with which she faced once more her duties as a nation, when King William I. and Bismarck were at the helm, was soon abundantly manifest. Bismarck, by bringing about our wars of Unification in order to improve radically an untenable position and secure to our people healthy conditions of life, fulfilled the long-felt wish of the German people, and raised Germany to the undisputed rank of a first-class European Power. The military successes and the political position won by the sword laid the foundation for an unparalleled material prosperity. It is difficult to imagine how pitiable the progress of the German people would have been had not these wars been brought about by a deliberate policy.

The most recent history tells the same story. If we judge the Japanese standpoint with an unbiased mind we shall find the resolution to fight Russia was not only heroic, but politically wise and morally justifiable. It was immensely daring to challenge the Russian giant, but the purely military conditions were favourable, and the Japanese nation, which had rapidly risen to a high stage of civilization, needed an extended sphere of influence to complete her development, and to open new channels for her superabundant activities. Japan, from her own point of view, was entitled to claim to be the predominant civilized power in Eastern Asia, and to repudiate the rivalry of Russia. The Japanese statesmen were justified by the result. The victorious campaign created wider conditions of life for the Japanese people and State, and at one blow raised it to be a determining co-factor in international politics, and gave it a political importance which must undeniably lead to great material advancement. If this war had been avoided from weakness or philanthropic illusions, it is reasonable to assume that matters would have taken a very different turn. The growing power of Russia in the Amur district and in Korea would have repelled or at least hindered the Japanese rival from rising to such a height of power as was attained through this war, glorious alike for military prowess and political foresight.

The appropriate and conscious employment of war as a political means has always led to happy results. Even an unsuccessfully waged war may sometimes be more beneficial to a people than the surrender of vital interests without a blow. We find an example of this in the recent heroic struggle of the small Boer States against the British Empire. In this struggle they were inevitably defeated. It was easy to foresee that an armed peasantry could not permanently resist the combined forces of England and her colonies, and that the peasant armies generally could not bear heavy losses. But yet–if all indications are not misleading–the blood shed by the Boer people will yield a free and prosperous future. In spite of much weakness, the resistance was heroic; men like President Stein, Botha, and De Wett, with their gallant followers, performed many great military feats. The whole nation combined and rose unanimously to fight for the freedom of which Byron sings:

“For freedom’s battle once begun,
Bequeathed from bleeding sire to son, Though baffled oft, is ever won.”

Inestimable moral gains, which can never be lost in any later developments, have been won by this struggle. The Boers have maintained their place as a nation; in a certain sense they have shown themselves superior to the English. It was only after many glorious victories that they yielded to a crushingly superior force. They accumulated a store of fame and national consciousness which makes them, though conquered, a power to be reckoned with. The result of this development is that the Boers are now the foremost people in South Africa, and that England preferred to grant them self-government than to be faced by their continual hostility. This laid the foundation for the United Free States of South Africa.[E]

[Footnote E: “War and the Arme Blanche,” by Erskine Childers: “The truth came like a flash … that all along we had been conquering the country, not the race; winning positions, not battles” (p. 215).

“To … aim at so cowing the Boer national spirit, as to gain a permanent political ascendancy for ourselves, was an object beyond our power to achieve. Peaceable political fusion under our own flag was the utmost we could secure. That means a conditional surrender, or a promise of future autonomy” (pp. 227-228). Lord Roberts wrote a very appreciative introduction to this book without any protest against the opinions expressed in it.]

President Kruger, who decided on this most justifiable war, and not Cecil Rhodes, will, in spite of the tragic ending to the war itself, be known in all ages as the great far-sighted statesman of South Africa, who, despite the unfavourable material conditions, knew how to value the inestimable moral qualities according to their real importance.

The lessons of history thus confirm the view that wars which have been deliberately provoked by far-seeing statesmen have had the happiest results. War, nevertheless, must always be a violent form of political agent, which not only contains in itself the danger of defeat, but in every case calls for great sacrifices, and entails incalculable misery. He who determines upon war accepts a great responsibility.

It is therefore obvious that no one can come to such a decision except from the most weighty reasons, more especially under the existing conditions which have created national armies. Absolute clearness of vision is needed to decide how and when such a resolution can be taken, and what political aims justify the use of armed force.

This question therefore needs careful consideration, and a satisfactory answer can only be derived from an examination of the essential duty of the State.

If this duty consists in giving scope to the highest intellectual and moral development of the citizens, and in co-operating in the moral education of the human race, then the State’s own acts must necessarily conform to the moral laws. But the acts of the State cannot be judged by the standard of individual morality. If the State wished to conform to this standard it would often find itself at variance with its own particular duties. The morality of the State must be developed out of its own peculiar essence, just as individual morality is rooted in the personality of the man and his duties towards society. The morality of the State must be judged by the nature and _raison d’etre_ of the State, and not of the individual citizen. But the end-all and be-all of a State is power, and “he who is not man enough to look this truth in the face should not meddle in politics.” [F]

[Footnote F: Treitschke, “Politik,” i., p 3, and ii., p 28.]

Machiavelli was the first to declare that the keynote of every policy was the advancement of power. This term, however, has acquired, since the German Reformation, a meaning other than that of the shrewd Florentine. To him power was desirable in itself; for us “the State is not physical power as an end in itself, it is power to protect and promote the higher interests”; “power must justify itself by being applied for the greatest good of mankind.” [G]

[Footnote G: Treitschke, “Politik,” i., p 3, and ii., p 28.]

The criterion of the personal morality of the individual “rests in the last resort on the question whether he has recognized and developed his own nature to the highest attainable degree of perfection.” [H] If the same standard is applied to the State, then “its highest moral duty is to increase its power. The individual must sacrifice himself for the higher community of which he is a member; but the State is itself the highest conception in the wider community of man, and therefore the duty of self-annihilation does not enter into the case. The Christian duty of sacrifice for something higher does not exist for the State, for there is nothing higher than it in the world’s history; consequently it cannot sacrifice itself to something higher. When a State sees its downfall staring it in the face, we applaud if it succumbs sword in hand. A sacrifice made to an alien nation not only is immoral, but contradicts the idea of self-preservation, which is the highest ideal of a State.” [I]

[Footnote H: _Ibid._]

[Footnote I: _Ibid_., i., p 3.]

I have thought it impossible to explain the foundations of political morality better than in the words of our great national historian. But we can reach the same conclusions by another road. The individual is responsible only for himself. If, either from weakness or from moral reasons, he neglects his own advantage, he only injures himself, the consequences of his actions recoil only on him. The situation is quite different in the case of a State. It represents the ramifying and often conflicting interests of a community. Should it from any reason neglect the interests, it not only to some extent prejudices itself as a legal personality, but it injures also the body of private interests which it represents. This incalculably far-reaching detriment affects not merely one individual responsible merely to himself, but a mass of individuals and the community. Accordingly it is a moral duty of the State to remain loyal to its own peculiar function as guardian and promoter of all higher interests. This duty it cannot fulfil unless it possesses the needful power.

The increase of this power is thus from this standpoint also the first and foremost duty of the State. This aspect of the question supplies a fair standard by which the morality of the actions of the State can be estimated. The crucial question is, How far has the State performed this duty, and thus served the interests of the community? And this not merely in the material sense, but in the higher meaning that material interests are justifiable only so far as they promote the power of the State, and thus indirectly its higher aims.

It is obvious, in view of the complexity of social conditions, that numerous private interests must be sacrificed to the interest of the community, and, from the limitations of human discernment, it is only natural that the view taken of interests of the community may be erroneous. Nevertheless the advancement of the power of the State must be first and foremost the object that guides the statesman’s policy. “Among all political sins, the sin of feebleness is the most contemptible; it is the political sin against the Holy Ghost.” [J] This argument of political morality is open to the objection that it leads logically to the Jesuitic principle, that the end justifies the means; that, according to it, to increase the power of the State all measures are permissible.

[Footnote J: Treitschke, “Politik,” i., p 3.]

A most difficult problem is raised by the question how far, for political objects moral in themselves, means may be employed which must be regarded as reprehensible in the life of the individual. So far as I know, no satisfactory solution has yet been obtained, and I do not feel bound to attempt one at this point. War, with which I am dealing at present, is no reprehensible means in itself, but it may become so if it pursues unmoral or frivolous aims, which bear no comparison with the seriousness of warlike measures. I must deviate here a little from my main theme, and discuss shortly some points which touch the question of political morality.

The gulf between political and individual morality is not so wide as is generally assumed. The power of the State does not rest exclusively on the factors that make up material power–territory, population, wealth, and a large army and navy: it rests to a high degree on moral elements, which are reciprocally related to the material. The energy with which a State promotes its own interests and represents the rights of its citizens in foreign States, the determination which it displays to support them on occasion by force of arms, constitute a real factor of strength, as compared with all such countries as cannot bring themselves to let things come to a crisis in a like case. Similarly a reliable and honourable policy forms an element of strength in dealings with allies as well as with foes. A statesman is thus under no obligation to deceive deliberately. He can from the political standpoint avoid all negotiations which compromise his personal integrity, and he will thereby serve the reputation and power of his State no less than when he holds aloof from political menaces, to which no acts correspond, and renounces all political formulas and phrases.

In antiquity the murder of a tyrant was thought a moral action, and the Jesuits have tried to justify regicide.[K] At the present day political murder is universally condemned from the standpoint of political morality. The same holds good of preconcerted political deception. A State which employed deceitful methods would soon sink into disrepute. The man who pursues moral ends with unmoral means is involved in a contradiction of motives, and nullifies the object at which he aims, since he denies it by his actions. It is not, of course, necessary that a man communicate all his intentions and ultimate objects to an opponent; the latter can be left to form his own opinion on this point. But it is not necessary to lie deliberately or to practise crafty deceptions. A fine frankness has everywhere been the characteristic of great statesmen. Subterfuges and duplicity mark the petty spirit of diplomacy.

[Footnote K: Mariana, “De rege et regis institutione.” Toledo, 1598.]

Finally, the relations between two States must often be termed a latent war, which is provisionally being waged in peaceful rivalry. Such a position justifies the employment of hostile methods, cunning, and deception, just as war itself does, since in such a case both parties are determined to employ them. I believe after all that a conflict between personal and political morality may be avoided by wise and prudent diplomacy, if there is no concealment of the desired end, and it is recognized that the means employed must correspond to the ultimately moral nature of that end.

Recognized rights are, of course, often violated by political action. But these, as we have already shown, are never absolute rights; they are of human origin, and therefore imperfect and variable. There are conditions under which they do not correspond to the actual truth of things; in this case the _summum jus summa injuria_ holds good, and the infringement of the right appears morally justified. York’s decision to conclude the convention of Tauroggen was indisputably a violation of right, but it was a moral act, for the Franco-Prussian alliance was made under compulsion, and was antagonistic to all the vital interests of the Prussian State; it was essentially untrue and immoral. Now it is always justifiable to terminate an immoral situation.

As regards the employment of war as a political means, our argument shows that it becomes the duty of a State to make use of the _ultima ratio_ not only when it is attacked, but when by the policy of other States the power of the particular State is threatened, and peaceful methods are insufficient to secure its integrity. This power, as we saw, rests on a material basis, but finds expression in ethical values. War therefore seems imperative when, although the material basis of power is not threatened, the moral influence of the State (and this is the ultimate point at issue) seems to be prejudiced. Thus apparently trifling causes may under certain circumstances constitute a fully justifiable _casus belli_ if the honour of the State, and consequently its moral prestige, are endangered. This prestige is an essential part of its power. An antagonist must never be allowed to believe that there is any lack of determination to assert this prestige, even if the sword must be drawn to do so.

In deciding for war or peace, the next important consideration is whether the question under discussion is sufficiently vital for the power of the State to justify the determination to fight; whether the inevitable dangers and miseries of a war do not threaten to inflict greater injury on the interests of the State than the disadvantages which, according to human calculation, must result if war is not declared. A further point to be considered is whether the general position of affairs affords some reasonable prospect of military success. With these considerations of expediency certain other weighty aspects of the question must also be faced.

It must always be kept in mind that a State is not justified in looking only to the present, and merely consulting the immediate advantage of the existing generation. Such policy would be opposed to all that constitutes the essential nature of the State. Its conduct must be guided by the moral duties incumbent on it, which, as one step is gained, point to the next higher, and prepare the present for the future. “The true greatness of the State is that it links the past with the present and the future; consequently the individual has no right to regard the State as a means for attaining his own ambitions in life.” [L]

[Footnote L: Treitschke, “Politik,” i., p 3.]

The law of development thus becomes a leading factor in politics, and in the decision for war this consideration must weigh more heavily than the sacrifices necessarily to be borne in the present. “I cannot conceive,” Zelter once wrote to Goethe, “how any right deed can be performed without sacrifice; all worthless actions must lead to the very opposite of what is desirable.”

A second point of view which must not be neglected is precisely that which Zelter rightly emphasizes. A great end cannot be attained except by staking large intellectual and material resources, and no certainty of success can ever be anticipated. Every undertaking implies a greater or less venture. The daily intercourse of civic life teaches us this lesson; and it cannot be otherwise in politics where account must be taken of most powerful antagonists whose strength can only be vaguely estimated. In questions of comparatively trifling importance much may be done by agreements and compromises, and mutual concessions may produce a satisfactory status. The solution of such problems is the sphere of diplomatic activity. The state of things is quite different when vital questions are at issue, or when the opponent demands concession, but will guarantee none, and is clearly bent on humiliating the other party. Then is the time for diplomatists to be silent and for great statesmen to act. Men must be resolved to stake everything, and cannot shun the solemn decision of war. In such questions any reluctance to face the opponent, every abandonment of important interests, and every attempt at a temporizing settlement, means not only a momentary loss of political prestige, and frequently of real power, which may possibly be made good in another place, but a permanent injury to the interests of the State, the full gravity of which is only felt by future generations.

Not that a rupture of pacific relations must always result in such a case. The mere threat of war and the clearly proclaimed intention to wage it, if necessary, will often cause the opponent to give way. This intention must, however, be made perfectly plain, for “negotiations without arms are like music-books without instruments,” as Frederick the Great said. It is ultimately the actual strength of a nation to which the opponent’s purpose yields. When, therefore, the threat of war is insufficient to call attention to its own claims the concert must begin; the obligation is unconditional, and the _right_ to fight becomes the _duty_ to make war, incumbent on the nation and statesman alike.

Finally, there is a third point to be considered. Cases may occur where war must be made simply as a point of honour, although there is no prospect of success. The responsibility of this has also to be borne. So at least Frederick the Great thought. His brother Henry, after the battle of Kolin, had advised him to throw himself at the feet of the Marquise de Pompadour in order to purchase a peace with France. Again, after the battle of Kunersdorf his position seemed quite hopeless, but the King absolutely refused to abandon the struggle. He knew better what suited the honour and the moral value of his country, and preferred to die sword in hand than to conclude a degrading peace. President Roosevelt, in his message to the Congress of the United States of America on December 4, 1906, gave expression to a similar thought. “It must ever be kept in mind,” so the manly and inspiriting words ran, “that war is not merely justifiable, but imperative, upon honourable men and upon an honourable nation when peace is only to be obtained by the sacrifice of conscientious conviction or of national welfare. A just war is in the long-run far better for a nation’s soul than the most prosperous peace obtained by an acquiescence in wrong or injustice…. It must be remembered that even to be defeated in war may be better than not to have fought at all.”

To sum up these various views, we may say that expediency in the higher sense must be conclusive in deciding whether to undertake a war in itself morally justifiable. Such decision is rendered more easy by the consideration that the prospects of success are always the greatest when the moment for declaring war can be settled to suit the political and military situation.

It must further be remembered that every success in foreign policy, especially if obtained by a demonstration of military strength, not only heightens the power of the State in foreign affairs, but adds to the reputation of the Government at home, and thus enables it better to fulfil its moral aims and civilizing duties.

No one will thus dispute the assumption that, under certain circumstances, it is the moral and political duty of the State to employ war as a political means. So long as all human progress and all natural development are based on the law of conflict, it is necessary to engage in such conflict under the most favourable conditions possible.

When a State is confronted by the material impossibility of supporting any longer the warlike preparations which the power of its enemies has forced upon it, when it is clear that the rival States must gradually acquire from natural reasons a lead that cannot be won back, when there are indications of an offensive alliance of stronger enemies who only await the favourable moment to strike–the moral duty of the State towards its citizens is to begin the struggle while the prospects of success and the political circumstances are still tolerably favourable. When, on the other hand, the hostile States are weakened or hampered by affairs at home and abroad, but its own warlike strength shows elements of superiority, it is imperative to use the favourable circumstances to promote its own political aims. The danger of a war may be faced the more readily if there is good prospect that great results may be obtained with comparatively small sacrifices.

These obligations can only be met by a vigorous, resolute, active policy, which follows definite ideas, and understands how to arouse and concentrate all the living forces of the State, conscious of the truth of Schiller’s lines:

“The chance that once thou hast refused Will never through the centuries recur.”

The verdict of history will condemn the statesman who was unable to take the responsibility of a bold decision, and sacrificed the hopes of the future to the present need of peace.

It is obvious that under these circumstances it is extremely difficult to answer the question whether in any special case conditions exist which justify the determination to make war. The difficulty is all the greater because the historical significance of the act must be considered, and the immediate result is not the final criterion of its justification.

War is not always the final judgment of Heaven. There are successes which are transitory while the national life is reckoned by centuries. The ultimate verdict can only be obtained by the survey of long epochs.[M]

[Footnote M: Treitschke, “Politik,” i., p 2.] 54
The man whose high and responsible lot is to steer the fortunes of a great State must be able to disregard the verdict of his contemporaries; but he must be all the clearer as to the motives of his own policy, and keep before his eyes, with the full weight of the categorical imperative, the teaching of Kant: “Act so that the maxim of thy will can at the same time hold good as a principle of universal legislation.” [N]

[Footnote N: Kant, “Kritik der praktischen Vernuft,” p. 30.]

He must have a clear conception of the nature and purpose of the State, and grasp this from the highest moral standpoint. He can in no other way settle the rules of his policy and recognize clearly the laws of political morality.

He must also form a clear conception of the special duties to be fulfilled by the nation, the guidance of whose fortunes rests in his hands. He must clearly and definitely formulate these duties as the fixed goal of statesmanship. When he is absolutely clear upon this point he can judge in each particular case what corresponds to the true interests of the State; then only can he act systematically in the definite prospect of smoothing the paths of politics, and securing favourable conditions for the inevitable conflicts; then only, when the hour for combat strikes and the decision to fight faces him, can he rise with a free spirit and a calm breast to that standpoint which Luther once described in blunt, bold language: “It is very true that men write and say often what a curse war is. But they ought to consider how much greater is that curse which is averted by war. Briefly, in the business of war men must not regard the massacres, the burnings, the battles, and the marches, etc.–that is what the petty and simple do who only look with the eyes of children at the surgeon, how he cuts off the hand or saws off the leg, but do not see or notice that he does it in order to save the whole body. Thus we must look at the business of war or the sword with the eyes of men, asking, Why these murders and horrors? It will be shown that it is a business, divine in itself, and as needful and necessary to the world as eating or drinking, or any other work.”[O]

[Footnote O: Luther, “Whether soldiers can be in a state of salvation.”]

Thus in order to decide what paths German policy must take in order to further the interests of the German people, and what possibilities of war are involved, we must first try to estimate the problems of State and of civilization which are to be solved, and discover what political purposes correspond to these problems.



The life of the individual citizen is valuable only when it is consciously and actively employed for the attainment of great ends. The same holds good of nations and States. They are, as it were, personalities in the framework of collective humanity, infinitely various in their endowments and their characteristic qualities, capable of the most different achievements, and serving the most multifarious purposes in the great evolution of human existence.

Such a theory will not be accepted from the standpoint of the materialistic philosophy which prevails among wide circles of our nation to-day.

According to it, all that happens in the world is a necessary consequence of given conditions; free will is only necessity become conscious. It denies the difference between the empiric and the intelligible Ego, which is the basis of the notion of moral freedom.

This philosophy cannot stand before scientific criticism. It seems everywhere arbitrarily restricted by the narrow limits of the insufficient human intelligence. The existence of the universe is