Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 86.djvu/71

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67
EUROPE'S DYNASTIC SLAUGHTER HOUSE

worse than wrong, it was folly. Imagine the clear-headed wisdom, which is of itself grandeur, that in the settlement of Balkan frontiers, with willingness and cordiality had furthered the cause of Servian nationality, not “grudgingly or of necessity” declined territorial aggression, and permitted—nay, invited Servia to a sea-port on the Adriatic.

Such highmindedness was not to have been expected of ruthless nationalism, as yet feudal, medieval, neither civilized nor Christian. What really happened was the outcome of age-old precedent, exponent of piracy and brigandage, that “they should take who have the power, and they shall keep who can.” Such an action would (who for an instant doubts it?) have averted the war. Idealistic? Yes. Sentimental? Yes. But it would have been something else, something better by far than idealism or sentiment—it would have been clever—what we rude Yankees call “smart.” In general it may be said that it is better to be clever than to be good, for cleverness includes morality; but “though thou shouldst bray a fool in a mortar yet will not his foolishness depart from him.” There are all kinds of fools, but none so foolish as the fool who is sure of wisdom founded upon power, and not “broad-based upon the peoples’ will.”

Returning to the subject of a correct forecast of the future, undoubtedly neither Russia nor France has at stake very much more than losses—land, money and prestige. Though the ultimate success of German arms should be complete, neither Russia nor France need fear any spoiliation that time and economy can not retrieve from the most ruthless enforcement of the right of conquest. Of course France would again have heavy damage exacted; but Germany would be willing enough to “cry quits” with her gigantic Slavic neighbor. Both nations are (to use the apt simile of Æsop) “running for their dinner” and no more. Permanently to annex further French provinces would merely embarrass Germany, and already she has enough discontented and hostile Slavs without adding to their number.

But between Germany and Great Britain the relations—present and prospective—are and will remain until a final settlement, vastly different. These nations are both fighting “for their lives.” With them it is war à l’outrance, to end only in the destruction or humiliation of one. As to which one this must inevitably be it needs hardly any “gift of prophecy” to forecast.

In considering the path and progress towards the inevitable, factors numerous, complex, and perplexing, crowd and jostle one another demanding recognition as important or conclusive. Current journalism is full of them, some occasionally suggestive, but mostly merely silly, being generally based upon partial, imperfect, or erroneous information, or upon prejudiced optimism. Just a few among many having real