Page:Britain's Deadly Peril.djvu/27

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21
THE PERIL OF "MUDDLING THROUGH"

We hear occasional stories of huts unfit for human habitation, of food in camp hardly fit for human consumption. On the whole, however, it is cordially agreed—and it is only fair to say—that there has been an entire absence of the shocking scandals of the type which revolted the nation during the Crimean campaign. Much has been said about the War Office arrangement with Mr. Meyer for the purchase of timber. But the main allegation, even in this case, is that the War Office made an exceedingly bad and foolish bargain, and Mr. Meyer an exceedingly good one. Indeed it is not even suggested that the transaction involved anything in the nature of fraud. It seems rather to be a plea that the purely commercial side of war would be infinitely better conducted by committees of able business men than by permanent officials of the War Office, who are, after all, not very commercial.

Undoubtedly this is true. We should be spared a good deal of the muddling and waste involved in our wars if, on the outbreak of hostilities, the War Office promptly asked the leading business men of the community to form committees and take over and manage for the benefit of the nation the purely commercial branches of the work. Yet I suppose, under our system of government, such an obvious common-sense procedure as this could hardly be hoped for. We continue to leave vast commercial undertakings in the hands of the men who are not bred in business, with the result that money is wasted by millions, and so are lucky if we are not swindled on a gigantic scale by the unscrupulous contractors. It is usually in an army's food and clothing that scandals of this nature are revealed, and it is only just to the War Office to say that in