Page:Saturdayeveningp1935unse.djvu/485

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97
THE SATURDAY EVENING POST

(Continued from Page 94)

the exchange. All European countries, including my own, cheat travelers on the exchange—that is apparently what the exchange is for.

He will then travel for a few hours to the German frontier. There he will be bundled out again. The French will investigate him closely to see that he is not carrying gold or large sums of money out of France. Then he will be handed over to the Germans. He will go through the same business with the customs and the same business with the money. His French money is no further use to him and he must get German. A few more hours and he will arrive on the frontier of Bohemia. Same search for gold. Then customs examination and change of money again. A few hours more and he will be in Poland. Search for gold, customs, fresh money.

As most of these countries are pursuing different railway policies, he will probably have to change trains and rebook his luggage three or four times. The trains may be ingeniously contrived not to connect so as to force him to take some longer route politically favoured by one of the intervening states. He will be lucky if he gets to Warsaw in four days.

Arrived in Warsaw, he will probably need a permit to stay there, and he will certainly need no end of permits to leave.

Now here is a fuss over a fiddling little journey of eleven hundred miles. Is it any wonder that the bookings from London to Warsaw are infinitesimal in comparison with the bookings from New York to St. Louis? But what I have noted here are only the normal inconveniences of the traveller. They are by no means the most serious inconveniences.

The same obstructions that hamper the free movement of a traveller, hamper the movement of foodstuffs and all sorts of merchandise in a much greater degree. Everywhere in Europe trade is being throttled by tariffs and crippled by the St. Vitus' dance of the exchanges. Each of these European sovereign states turns out paper money at its own sweet will. Last summer I went to Prague and exchanged pounds for kroners. They ought to have been 25 to the pound. On Monday they were 180 to the pound; on Friday 169. They jump about between 220 and 150, and everybody is inconvenienced except the bankers and money changers. And this uncertain exchange diverts considerable amounts of money that should be stimulating business enterprise into a barren and mischievous gambling with the circulation.

Between each one of these compressed European countries the movement of food or labour is still more blocked and impeded. And in addition to these nuisances of national tariffs and independent national coinages at every few score miles, Europe is extraordinarily crippled by its want of any central authority to manage the most elementary collective interests—the control of vice, for example; the handling of infectious diseases; the suppression of international criminals.


The Seeds of War

Europe is now confronted by a new problem—the problem of air transport. So far as I can see, air transport is going to be strangled in Europe by international difficulties. One can fly comfortably and safely from London to Paris in two or three hours. But the passport preliminaries will take days beforehand.

The other day I wanted to get quickly to Reval in Esthonia from England and back again. The distance is about the same as from Boston to Minneapolis, and it could be done comfortably in ten to twelve hours' flying. I proposed to the Handley Page Company that they should arrange this for me. They explained that they had no power to fly beyond Amsterdam in Holland; thence it might be possible to get a German plane to Hamburg, and thence again a Danish plane to Copenhagen—leaving about five hundred miles which were too complicated politically to fly. Each stoppage would involve passport and other difficulties. In the end it took me five days to get to Reval and seven days to get back. In Europe, with its present frontiers, flying is not worth having. It can never be worth having—it can never be worked successfully—until it is worked as at least a pan-European affair.

All these are the normal inconveniences of the national divisions of Europe in peace time. By themselves they are strangling all hope of economic recovery. For Europe is not getting on to its feet economically. Only a united effort can effect that. But along each of the ridiculously restricted frontiers into which the European countries are packed, lies also the possibility of war. National independence means the right to declare war. And so each of these packed and strangulated European countries is obliged, by its blessed independence, to maintain as big an army and as big a military equipment as its bankrupt condition—for we are all bankrupt—permits.

Since the end of the Great War, nothing has been done of any real value to ensure any European country against the threat of war, and nothing will be done, and nothing can be done to lift that threat, so long as the idea of national independence overrides all other considerations.

And again, it is a little difficult for a mind accustomed to American conditions, to realize what modern war will mean in Europe.

Not one of these sovereign European states I have named between London and Warsaw is any larger than the one single American state of Texas, and not one has a capital that cannot be effectively bombed by aëroplane raiders from its frontier within five or six hours of a declaration of war. We can fly from London to Paris in two or three hours. And the aerial bombs of to-day, I can assure you, will make the biggest bombs of 1918 seem like little crackers. Over all these European countries broods this immediate threat of a warfare that will strain and torment the nerves of every living man, woman or child in the countries affected. Nothing of the sort can approach the American citizen except after a long warning. The worst war that could happen to any North American country would merely touch its coasts.


Contrasting Conditions

Now I have dwelt on these differences between America and Europe because they involve an absolute difference in outlook towards world peace projects, towards leagues of nations, world states and the like, between the American and the European.

The American lives in a political unity on the big modern scale. He can go on comfortably for a hundred years yet before he begins to feel tight in his political skin, and before he begins to feel the threat of immediate warfare close to his domestic life. He believes by experience in peace, but he feels under no passionate urgency to organize it. So far as he himself is concerned, he has got peace organized for a good long time ahead. I doubt if it would make any very serious difference for some time in the ordinary daily life of Kansas City, let us say, if all Europe were reduced to a desert in the next five years.

But on the other hand, the intelligent European is up against the unity of Europe problem night and day. Europe cannot go on. European civilization cannot go on, unless that net of boundaries which strangles her is dissolved away. The difficulties created by language differences, by bitter national traditions, by bad political habits and the like, are no doubt stupendous. But stupendous though they are, they have to be faced. Unless they are overcome, and overcome in a very few years, Europe—entangled in this net of boundaries, and under a perpetual fear of war, will, I am convinced, follow Russia and slide down beyond any hope of recovery into a process of social dissolution as profound and disastrous as that which closed the career of the Western Roman Empire.

The American intelligence and the European intelligence approach this question of a world peace, therefore, from an entirely different angle and in an entirely different spirit. To the American in the blessed ease of his great unbroken territory, it seems a matter simply of making his own ample securities world-wide by treaties of arbitration and such-like simple agreements. And my impression is that he thinks of Europeans as living under precisely similar conditions.

Nothing of that sort will meet the problem of the Old World. The European situation is altogether more intense and tragic than the American. Europe needs not treaties but a profound change in its political ideas and habits. Europe is saturated with narrow patriotism like a body saturated by some evil inherited disease. She is haunted by narrow ambitions and ancient animosities.

It is because of this profound difference of situation and outlook that I am