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punished if they question in any way the policy of the government in war.
(d) While it is true that war compels men to be loyal this is not necessarily a gain unless they are to be loyal to a good cause. To be loyal to a gang of murderers and plunderers is not made any better by calling the gang a state and the head of the gang a king or a government. Most wars have been simply raids for conquest or plunder by such an organized gang.
(e) War is not only wicked, it is foolish. To conquer does not profit a nation; it could gain far more by peaceful trade. War wastes resources of men, loads the common laborer with a burden of debt, and prevents him from bettering himself. It is the great enemy of democracy.
(f) War declares might is right. It does not follow that the nation that can fight best is the one that will promote civilization. Greece was the most civilized nation of the Old World. It was conquered by Romans who were better fighters. It came very near being conquered by the Persians. In recent times some of the small peoples of Europe have been foremost in their contributions to science, music, and literature.
War an evil but not the greatest evil
So much for the militarist and the pacifist. The third view would agree with the militarist that war has helped make men brave, has been the way in which nations have been formed which have made possible the progress in arts and sciences. It would agree with the pacifist that war also tends to make men brutal, that it crushes out freedom of thought and speech, that it is stupid and wasteful from a financial point of view. In other words, that war is an evil and not a good. But the crucial question for this third point of view is,
Is war the worst thing that can happen? And it answers, Bad as war is, there is one thing worse: that is, to permit liberty and justice to be crushed out without resisting. It ought to be possible, we say, to appeal to man's better nature, to get men to listen to reason, or to let some fair-minded third person decide quarrels. But unfortunately some men will not listen to reason; some men are greedy; some are violent; and our whole belief in government with our courts and our police rests on the view that if a man will not respect the rights of others, especially of the weak, he must be restrained. If, while I am standing by, a man comes along and attempts to murder a woman or a child, it is my duty to prevent him from doing what he wishes. If there is no other way to prevent him I ought to use force, and this may mean that I shall have to kill him; but it is better to kill him than to allow him to go on and murder. For if I look on and permit I virtually become his accomplice.
The argument that there may be a just war is based Force in on the same principle as the argument for controlling defense of murderers and thieves. The national state, at first the liberty creation of force, has been growing step by step more
justice democratic and free. Its laws, at first the decrees of kings who claimed to rule by divine right, have been revised and rewritten in order to make them more just. It has a duty to its citizens to protect them from violence; it has a larger duty to prevent liberty and democracy from being crushed. If no other way is left open it may use force to aid such“ a universal dominion of right by such a concert of free peoples as shall bring peace and safety to all nations, and make the world itself at last free.”
It is for war in defense of liberty that we have the
lines of Lowell that are on the Shaw Memorial in Boston:
“The brave soul of him lives on to light men's feet
Where death for noble ends makes dying sweet."
It is for death in such a cause that the lines of Emerson appeal to most men's moral sense:
“Though love repine, and reason chafe,
There came a voice without reply,
War a crude method
Yet, when we have said this, it still remains true that war even in a just cause shows that we are still very backward in civilization. In early savage society men fought over a great many questions which we now settle by appeal to a judge. As nations we are still only partly civilized so long as we go to war when some other way of establishing justice or of defending liberty could be found. Sometimes a little patience will achieve a great deal; for example, it is now believed by many, if not by most of those who were at the time well informed, that President McKinley could have carried out his plan to secure by peaceful negotiation with Spain her withdrawal from Cuba. Negotiations were in progress for this; but when the Maine was sunk people were too impatient to wait any longer. It is easy to see now how much better it might have been if the slaves could have been emancipated without war. Few now in the South would say that such a system as that of slavery could have lasted many generations in the face of the growing public sentiment of the world. It would of course have been a small matter to pay a liberal sum to all slave owners as compensation
for setting the slaves free in comparison with what the war actually cost in money; terrible loss of life, and the creation of bitter feelings which cannot yet be said to have died out entirely, might also have been avoided.
War persists because mankind has as yet risen but a little way on the ladder. The nation is a better group for keeping the peace than was the early clan, and a democratic nation is a great advance beyond the king and his warriors. Loyalty to a democratic nation is a nobler devotion than loyalty to a clan or a chief or a king. Patriotism is a quality we honor. But a nation, like a clan, is a group which has its defects as well as its values. So far as it means coöperation it is good; so far as it limits coöperation with other peoples, or what is worse, sets men in hostility to other peoples, it is bad. Loyalty to a great cause, such as freedom, is noble; but we have come to see that only by justice and coöperation can even freedom be secure. Loyalty to mankind must finally be supreme; international law, international coöperation, international friendship must increase. This may not mean that nations will give up their individual lives, or cease to exist, any more than the family ceased to exist when nations were formed. It means, first, that we shall cultivate in science, in trade, in art, in communication of all sorts, a wider knowledge of mankind, a more intelligent sympathy, a genuine respect, and thus prepare for what an American philosopher has called the Great Community. It means, secondly, that nations will have to keep international law and submit their disputes to a better tribunal than war.
For, when all is said, it remains true that might does not make right. A war decides which side is stronger; it does not decide which side is right. If we were to
Might does not make right
look back through history we should probably find about as many cases where the wrong has won where the right has won. Some have argued that we must suppose that God will always decide for the right in a struggle. So far as we can see, this is not the case when the struggle is one of physical force. People used to think that the way to decide whether a man was innocent or guilty was to leave it to God. They would throw the man into the water or make him walk over hot plowshares. We have concluded that God has given man reason by which to decide such questions, and we think that trial by jury is a better plan to find out innocence than is trial by ordeal. So formerly in battle kings used to think that their national god would be on their side and would enable them to win the victory; but we have seen how many good causes have been trampled down, how many noble men and women have perished through violence, so that it has sometimes seemed to be,
Right forever on the scaffold, wrong forever on the
On the whole, ideas and discussion, the work and example of noble men and women, have been greater powers than war for the spread of liberty and justice. The noblest words of faith which I know, and those which may well serve as the maxim in life for every American citizen in our dealings with other nations as well as in our own affairs, are the words of Lincoln:
LET US HAVE FAITH THAT RIGHT MAKES MIGHT."