A League of Peace
"Preparation for War"
By Andrew Carnegie
[The Independent; October 19, 1914]
The writer has not failed to read with intense interest what has been published on both sides of the Atlantic upon the present lamentable conditions, created by the greatest war known to history, embracing nine countries, six of these among the greatest nations—Britain, France, Germany, Russia, Austria and Japan, engulfing in their train Belgium, Servia and Montenegro. That the former conditions can ever be restored seems improbable. Some part of the civilized world may have to undergo reconstruction.
Among the forthcoming results there is to be proven once again the fallacy that world peace can be secured thru preparation by each nation for war. On the contrary, there can be no possible escape from the conclusion that war can be abolished only thru a union of powerful, peace nations, resolved to preserve the peace themselves and also, if absolutely necessary, to enforce it upon others.
The present war gives us upon a small scale an illustration of the forthcoming union of nations to preserve peace, in the agreement executed by the allies, Britain, Russia and France, which binds them to act only in unison in all matters affecting peace. No one separate nation has power to act, only the three nations united have all power.
Preparation for war as a means of ensuring peace has been proven a failure. It has been tried for 2500 years and has always precipitated war, since one nation "preparing" compels her neighbor to do likewise—one fears the other, and both increase "preparation" until the inevitable struggle bursts forth. Not long since gentlemen went prepared against personal war, and this "preparation" resulted in continual danger of attack. Gentlemen actually practised shooting at dummies, that they might become better marksmen, hence more likely to kill than be killed. The more they prepared to meet this private war, the more likely they were to be called upon to meet it. The present Emperor of Germany found upon his elevation to the throne an average of 120 duels per year in his army, which he has reduced to ten. Only last year he took another step in favor of personal peace and "officers having religious objections to the duel were ordered hereafter to be treated with the utmost forbearance." One officer had been dismissed, from the army upon refusing to fight a duel, having religious scruples. But so great was the remonstrance that he was promptly reinstated. In France the duel creates laughter, so rare and ineffective it has become. It is now introduced successfully in comedy. So personal war fades rapidly away as men learn wisdom—national war must follow, as night follows day. So steadily grows public sentiment war, national or personal. Against intemperance, likewise, the Emperor never ceases both by precept and example to wage war with decided success. And above all, he has secured for Germany twenty-seven long years of unbroken peace.
In this day of hostile criticism against him as favoring the present unholy war, let it never be forgotten that there is another side to this. Not seldom the hereditary ruler has to yield to the permanent officials, for such they practically become under permanently crowned heads, a caste which in Germany is composed solely of military and naval officials who surround the throne. No one ignorant of its power can properly estimate its malign influence. The leading Germans of world-wide fame, who give their country high place in the world' in the realms of knowledge, invention, discovery and science, are of secondary rank and outside of the court. To assume that the Emperor has all power when war and peace are concerned is a sad mistake. No country has today so commanding a military and naval caste. When peace and war is the question this should ever be borne in mind.
We have seen that "preparation for war" by one nation begets similar preparation by those nations which feel themselves endangered. The remedy for this is evidently one world-wide organization of as many peaceful powers as possible to prevent war and insist that differences between nations shall peacefully adjusted by the Hague Conference, or other tribunal satisfactory to the contendents. In the last resort, if necessary, the World Peace Court could deliver judgment by a majority vote, which would be binding upon the powers.
Without separate armies and navies there could be no war, the world would be at peace. This fact cannot be gainsaid. It is therefore in this direction that men of peace should labor. One great step toward this, as I have said, has been made by the following annoucement; here lies the germ which only needs development to banish war from civilized nations:
The British, French and Russian Governments, on Saturday, September 5th, mutually agreed not to make peace separately during the present war, and no one of them shall demand conditions of peace without the previous approval of the others.
Here the allied nations combine and act as one. After the present belligerents agree upon peaceful settlement, Germany and Austria should be the first invited by the Allies to join in forming a League of Peace. Should they accept, then some of the other nations might be invited. At the first meeting of the League some general principles might be formulated: First, one general World Peace Commission shall be established to which each member shall contribute, toward expenditure in proportion to its population and wealth. Their respective fleets shall be merged, controlled and operated under such management as the League may direct from time to time. No war policy, or attack upon any nation or fleet shall be made except by a majority vote of two-thirds of all the members of the World Peace League, and then only after timely notice to the nation threatened. The Commission shall exercize undisputed authority, always provided it is sustained and its action approved from time to time by two-thirds of the total membership.
An executive committee shall be elected by two-thirds majority of the Commission, a separate vote being taken up on each candidate. This committee shall elect a president and a vice-president by a majority vote who shall each serve four years but the vice-president shall serve six years for the first term, and his successor be elected for four years, thus preventing the simultaneous change of both the former high officials.
The difference between the proposed Commission and the present situation in regard to peace and war is fundamental. For twenty-five hundred years tribes and nations have warred with each other, inflicting such barbarities as make the flesh creep as one reads, and all these years it has been held by many that "preparation for war" prevents war, yet today we have the greatest outburst of war that this long history recounts. We submit that the day is past when we shall longer tolerate this inhuman sacrifice of human beings. The civilized world has tried "preparation' for war" long enough. We now propose to render war impossible, at least between the best of those nations classed as civilized. When these lead, others can-be compelled to follow, or ostracised, if this ever became necessary. The League would act upon the high moral standard of world peace, determined to maintain it when necessary in the judgment of the two-thirds majority of its members. Even if success be delayed, sooner or later its triumph would be certain.
This slight sketch may serve to awaken interest which of itself is most desirable in this phenomenal crisis. If there be a surer way to peace, so much the better. Whenever and however the killing of men by men under cover of war can be prevented, let all promising modes be submitted and tried, for war is the world's greatest crime. One thing is certain, peace upon earth can never come from "preparation for war" hence let us discard that fallacy and try other means. It is submitted that a League of Peace embracing the chief nations is worthy of consideration.
War, as the guardian of international peace, after twenty centuries of trial, has proved a traitor thereto, waging as it is today, the greatest of all wars that ever devastated the earth and sacrificing thousands of men weekly to death in this, the Twentieth Century of Christianity.
I submit that we have tried this enemy of the Peaceful Brotherhood of Men too long. Now the hosts of blest World-Peace should be summoned to perform their stern duty, which shall cease only when the prophecy is fulfilled, "Men shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more."
Any platform short of this fails to bridge the chasm between Peace and War. We must span the roaring torrent from side to side—and never rest until the day of blest peace returns. We have abolished slavery from civilized nations, the owning of man by man. The next great step that the advanced powers of the civilized world should take is to abolish war, the killing of man by man. God speed that day!
New York City
© J. Fred MacDonald, 2013
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THE HEADLONG FURY
A Novel of World War One
By J. Fred MacDonald