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One of the striking features of the great world war is that, concurrently with the most amazing display of physical force that the world has ever seen, there has been an equally amazing conflict of ideas and arguments. The war has its spiritual as well as its material aspects, and it is possible. that the former will surpass in continuing importance the latter.
From 1914 to 1918, the world has had its greatest moral controversy. Prince Bismarck, in a notable speech in the Reichstag in 1885, stated that, if Germany should wage an aggressive war upon France, the "imponderables” would be against Germany; and he added that these "imponderables” far outweighed in importance the "ponderables." The greatest of the "imponderables” is the public opinion of civilization.
From the beginning of the war, Germany has recognized the weight of this “imponderable.” Concurrently with the marching of its titanic armies, it has waged an unprecedented press campaign to justify itself at the bar of public opinion. In part, this appeal to the judgment of mankind has been made openly in the forum of public opinion by arguments, often more voluble than valuable, but in greater part it has been secretly made by sinister methods, such a bribery, espionage, intrigue and the world-wide circulation of untruths,
As Germany has attempted to demoralize economic conditions in Russia by flooding that country with counterfeit money, similarly it has tried to demoralize civilization by the wide circulation of base counterfeits of truth. Such was the address at the beginning of the war of the ninety-three German intellectuals, which only resulted in destroying for decades to come respect for the integrity of German scholarship. The ultimate purpose was to convince, or at least confuse, the public opinion of the world as to the merits of the quarrel, so that Germany could thereby gain a moral victory concurrently with the material victory which at the beginning it so confidently but erroneously anticipated.
An idea is greater than an army, but unfortunately the evil consequences of a falsehood are only less potential than the beneficent force of a truth. Thus the debâclé of Russia is due largely to Germany's powerful propaganda. Germany realizes that the final result of this war may depend upon the question, which of the two groups of nations can longest preserve the morale of their civilian populations—and Germany further recog
nizes that its future position in the community of nations, whether successful or defeated, will depend to a large extent upon the attitude of the world towards Germany's claims and pretensions.
For these reasons, it is quite as vital to keep just ideas to the forefront as to send our men to the firing line. It is not enough to defeat Germany on the field of battle. It is essential that the world should be convinced that its defeat was just and its punishment merited. Indeed, it may be essential to the future peace of the world that the German people shall also be convinced that they were duped and misled as to the causes of the war.
Above the roar of the cannon and the dust of the battle, there is this incessant conflict of truth and falsehood and conflicting ideas; and it is all essential that the ideas, which make for democracy, humanity, justice and truth, shall not be over-borne by miasmic untruths. An uncontroverted falsehood, put into circulation by the German propaganda, does far more harm than a single cloud of poison gas. The latter poisons the lungs, the former the very souls of men.
For this reason, the National Security League has done a public service in preparing and circulating this American War Manual. In a compact form, it gives us the basic facts with respect to the causes of the war and its subsequent developments, and references to the pertinent data. It renders a special service in a nation, which, like the United States, is naturally pacific, in again bringing to the attention of the American people the continuing importance of preparedness.
This compact volume, with each page crowded with valuable facts and quotations, cannot be other than most helpful in bringing home to the average American that his country is not only fighting for the basic principles of civilization, but for the prestige and independence of the United States.
JAMES M. BECK.
USE OF THE BOOK
papers reach millions and have heroically striven to teach the lesson of large scale preparedness. However, they do not exclude a campaign of public meetings and addresses which the Committee on Patriotism Through Education has made its particular duty and effort. The book is intended to be something like the political campaign book to be carried in the pocket, read on the cars, used as a source of arguments and a reservoir of quotations. The expectation is that it will be revised from time to time to meet the changes in situation and to take account of the new documents and discussions as they come along. It has necessarily been prepared in haste and doubtless contains some errors of statement and citation. The Committee will be at all times grateful for suggestions of ways to make it more useful for its purpose.
ALBERT BUSHNELL HART,
Editor for the Committee.