Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 86.djvu/75

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71
EUROPE'S DYNASTIC SLAUGHTER HOUSE

placed by bastions and scarps and turrets of steel, these also before the fire of colossal ordnance crumpled like parchment. In any new settlement or alignment shall nations be invited, encouraged or permitted once again to enter upon a ghastly rivalry of forces, to construct again so called defenses incalculably stronger, but destined in some future war to annihilation? Such a settlement is unthinkable; peace established at a prospect of cost to our coming race would indeed be cruelty.

Let us renew the query: when Germany lies prostrate and defenseless, what will happen? And let us add—not sentimentally or morally, but practically, and “scientifically”—what ought to happen? To many Americans, probably to a majority even of those not ill informed as to matters of negotiation in the early days of our national existence, it appeared singular that Great Britain consented with so little show of reluctance (it was in fact with suppressed alacrity) to modify so seriously the old Clayton-Bulwer treaty, by which modification we gained a very practical control of the interoceanic waterway. In few words it was because Britain’s far-sighted diplomacy easily recognized in the United States a prospect of profitable alliance, unwritten and un-“entangling” though it were, by which the mistress of the seas shifted upon America (on account of our “Monroe doctrine”) the expensive and disagreeable duty of policing the Western Hemisphere. With quiet and well-founded confidence immediately after the ratification of this treaty, Great Britain withdrew her war ships from American waters. The value of this treaty—this “scrap of paper,”—lay not at all in any especial reliance by Great Britain upon American national righteousness or friendliness, but upon that which in every exigency of human affairs, with nations and individuals alike, is more trustworthy than all professions of friendship, than all righteousness—enlightened self interest, mutual benefit.

Much has been written, and with very great ability and high sense of the obligation of “ethical values,” concerning the establishment hereafter of an international “posse comitatus,” to the end of enforcing peaceful relations, and of compelling acquiescence in the decrees of an international court of arbitration. The weakness of such an arrangement—most admirable if it could be assured in perpetuity—lies in this: that its permanence would depend not solely upon mutuality, but largely upon comity, upon a “scrap of paper,” a contract voidable at any moment by one or the other of the “high contracting powers.”

It is a military axiom that “one bad general is better than a dozen good ones,” and an axiom of very practical business that for utility and prompt acceptance a novel invention must “utilize already existing plants.” These two sayings, axiomatic or merely aphoristic, as one chooses to regard them, may find unexpected, but very practical application in the future, near or remote. It is by no means impossible that