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across the Balkans, where it conflicted with Russian claims, and towards naval power where it threatened England's security. Gradually England was drawn away from mere guardianship, and forced to throw her weight to Russia and France. The balance tipped so far in favor of Germany that England's whole weight had to be thrown into the scales to right it. Even the defection of Italy, foreshadowed in the Tripolitan war, did not restrain the increasing aggressiveness of the Central Powers. So when the war began, Europe was divided into two coalitions of such nearly equal strength that three years of furious warfare failed to break the deadlock. In all this America was the neutral, and though the issue between the two coalitions involved the existence of small nations, and the survival of liberal governments, there was no body of considerable opinion which proposed to enter the war on those grounds alone.
It was only when Germany brought the submarine into use, and threatened to disintegrate sea power that Americans felt themselves menaced. There was no difference in principle here between Roosevelt and Wilson. Mr. Roosevelt would have gone to war when the Lusitania was sunk; Mr. Wilson went to war when diplomacy had failed to mitigate the submarine attack. Neither of them proposed to go to war before the submarine appeared. As President, Mr. Roosevelt would perhaps have protested against the violation of Belgium: Mr. Wilson to-day may feel that he wishes he had done it. But both, in fact, were driven to action only when the threat against sea power became real.
This is a very significant matter, for a response of this kind arises out of the deepest political interests of a nation. Both were American statesmen, and neither felt a real menace to American life until the control of the seas was endangered. The conflict came home to us, as the saying is, when the aggression reached the world's highways and struck at the basis of mastery by the naval powers. Then we entered the war, saying that the autocracy of Germany must be overthrown and the rights of democracy safeguarded. What we have perhaps not so clearly realized, and yet must realize, is that the protection of democracy, as we understand it, is built upon the joint administration of sea power
by the British Empire and America. Our own Monroe Doctrine is built upon it from its inception to the present day. Though we often talk as if we were the only great power in the western hemisphere, as a matter of plain fact we are the closest neighbors of the British Empire at every vital point. So habitual and so unobtrusive has this relation become that we almost forget its existence. But it exists mightily, and if we have enjoyed a century of immunity from European aggressions the real cause lies in the successful maintenance by England of a balance of power upon the continent. We have never had the navy or the army to enforce the Monroe Doctrine against a European coalition and it is a mischievous form of self-deception to proceed on the theory that the Monroe Doctrine has been respected simply because we willed it. It was a principle of English policy fully as much as ours, because the English realized that the security of the Empire over large areas was protected by it.
Now, after the most serious threat ever directed against sea power, Britain and America emerge the undisputed leaders of world politics. Their common purposes are irresistible, and the destiny of all governments is for the moment in their hands.
How that joint power shall be used is the heart of the world's problem. How, then, shall it be used? There are some who would seem to favor a course by which we should find ourselves preparing for war with Britain. They do not say so publicly, to be sure, but they dream of supplanting Great Britain as mistress of the seas. That means war. They may not face the fact now, but it is a fact-sea power cannot be divided permanently. Britain may wield it; America, after a disastrous war, might snatch it from her. The two together can wield it. But they cannot each wield parts of it for any length of time, because after a period of competition war seems preferable to perpetual menace. The control of the seas is so delicate and so fundamental that it is impossible to leave it in dispute. Naval competition makes naval war, not a probability, but a certainty.
Another school, realizing this and smacking its lips over the concentration of power under AngloAmerican control, looks to a permanent alliance as the basis of a good headstrong foreign policy. Since America and Britain temporarily control the world's destiny, why not continue, and profit by it? This is the policy of imperialist alliance, and it leads straight to those very entanglements against which Washington warned the nation. A mere offensive and defensive alliance between two or three powers means in practice that each has to back the other's ambitions and mistakes. It is a method of whetting the worst appetites of each, and of committing both to all the troublesomeness of either. Such a policy would soon awaken against us first the jealousy and then the enmity of the excluded nations. The masses of the world are stirring; they will not long trust themselves to any selfish combination of powers, no matter how idealistic their present purposes may be. An alliance would be a temporary thing, for there is too much disruptive energy in the world to tolerate it long.