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by the diminishing faith of vast masses of people, who have seen governments bungle, falter and send men uselessly to death. They have seen governments blinded by privileged groups and favoritism, and cowed by the forces of reaction; they are angry and fiercely distrustful. They have borne the pain of the most extensive calamity in human history, and they have little more to lose. They sit restlessly in awful judgment upon the Lodges of the world. Their theories are a tiny part of their true feelings. What holds them from almost universal despair and dissolution is a lingering hope that perhaps there is still enough generosity and mercy left in Western statecraft to meet the issue. They are still turned, though skeptically, to the America which Wilson has described to them. For America did the incredible thing among governments. It fought without selfish purpose. It waged a clean war, and thereby made itself the strongest pillar of faith in authority standing intact in the world to-day. It is a terrifying thing rather than a cause of vanity that this should be so.
Americans did not plan to have thrust upon them such responsibilities as these. The army went humbly to the veterans of France. The American people intended to follow rather than to lead their Allies. But when the actual situation of Europe was revealed, they found their own diffidence a source of confidence in others. The goodness or badness of all this is a trivial question compared to the fact that it represents the truth about the world to-day, and a withdrawal by America from the position she occupies will be the signal for a European revolution.
The imminence of that revolution is the dominating thought of all men everywhere. Lenin and Liebknecht sit in the Council at Paris, and their voices are heard in every discussion. It is with them that the world is negotiating to-day for its own preservation. Those negotiations are watched intensely through the crevices of publicity which the Peace Conference permits. But cutting across this basic negotiation are a thousand strands of special claim and ambition to interrupt and entangle. Some one wants a piece of land, someone else wants to make money, another wants to work a little intrigue, and this stuff of the old diplomacy obscures vision, and distorts the proceedings. The direct
business of the conference is to feed the world, set it to work, and reconcile its people. Whoever impedes that is fiddling for a disaster. Whatever prevents the existing governments in Europe from reëstablishing normal life encourages those who say that the existing governments are damned and that there is no salvation in them.
The reason why Lenin may succeed is that the victors do not take seriously enough what he represents. They are frightened to be sure, they are even panicky, but they are not serious enough about the menace to be willing to subordinate every other consideration to the creation of a Europe which will be sterile to Bolshevism. They want to fight Lenin with one hand and use the other for their own purposes. They are repeating the error of those who wanted to win the war and at the same time continue to do business as usual.
Out of this desire arise those ingenious diplomatic futilities by which the old intrigue is to be maintained as a method of crushing the Bolshevist power. Having realized that the armies of France and Great Britain cannot be used to police Russia, and that the American people do not intend to bury half a million boys in a wilderness for ten years or so, the idea of direct military intervention has been abandoned, and for it has been substituted the fashionable phrase “sanitary cordon.” The theory is that a dam is to be erected in the east of Europe consisting of Poland, Czecho-Slovakia, a Greater Rumania, and Jugo-Slavia, and statesmen representing these nations have actually been found who are willing to have their countries used as a dam. These new and fragile republics are to be erected between Bolshevist Russia, Communist Hungary and Spartacide Germany. Then another dam is to be erected on the Rhine, and the whole thing guaranteed by an alliance with Great Britain and America disguised as a League of Nations.
This is a very dangerous bit of fooling. No one who knows anything of the internal conditions of the new states of eastern Europe can for a moment imagine that they will survive squeezed in between gigantic revolutions in both Germany and Russia. Those new states are fragments of destroyed empires, and each contains within itself problems that have all the seeds of disorder. Each one moreover is at least partially in the hands of men whose ideas reflect the old imperial system, with the result that there has been through the winter a tangle of little wars on the frontiers of all of them. One American observer returning in January from what was Austria-Hungary had accounted for eleven separate military campaigns going on in the sanitary cordon.
The motive for using these little states as the buffer of the world is clear. It is to evade the disagreeable necessity of effecting a reconcilia- ; tion between the German people and the Western nations. If the cordon can be made to stand up it is possible to keep Germany prostrate and to escape the danger to Europe if her people become desperate; the new states are to be an iron fence dividing two areas of Bolshevism from each other. This is a more complicated version of what was tried at Brest-Litovsk, the scheme there was to use these same border states as a buffer, and then to paralyze Russia by splitting off the Ukraine. The new version is to use these states as a buffer facing two ways, and to paralyze Germany by splitting off a Rhenish republic. It would require as its first condition the mainte