The Czechoslovak Review/Volume 2/The Outposts of Liberty
The Bohemian Review
Jaroslav F. Smetanka, Editor.
|Vol. II, No. 6.||JUNE, 1918|
10 cents a Copy
The Outposts of Liberty
By George L. Knapp.
Six years ago, America began a series of mental voyages of discovery on the good ship Associated Press, voyages which have revealed the little nations of Europe to the eyes of the great nation of the western hemisphere.
These voyages began with the first Balkan war, and the first discovery made was that the little nations could fight. Greece, Bulgaria and Serbia “crushed” Turkey, whipped an army which its German trainer had just pronounced invincible, advanced almost to the gates of Constant inople, and liberated several millions of Christian subjects from Turkish tyranny. America read, chuckled and cheered. She gave Bulgaria far too much credit for the work, and Greece and Serbia too little, but that was a minor matter. States whose names were hardly known to the average citizen of this country at the beginning of 1912 had proved themselves the possessors of armies greater than those which marched under Napoleon, and of a soldierly genius equal to the best.
The second Balkan war muddled American public opinion somewhat, but brought out some more noteworthy facts. In that struggle, America learned that the oppressors of the little nations were not all Moslems, that Austria-Hungary and Russia were holding Serbs and Roumanians in a bondage which they hated as much as the Greeks of Smyrna hated the overlordship of the Turk, and that the first named of these great powers was actively stirring up trouble in the Balkans. In spite of the foolish pro-Bulgarism shown in the earlier combat, this country was quick to realize that Austria-Hungary had egged Bulgaria on, and rejoiced at the defeat of the lesser bully and the disappointment of his patron.
Then came the great war, the attempt to strangle Serbia in the east, the brutal bludgeoning of Belgium in the west; and America gained a new understanding of the importance of the neglected lesser peoples. The Bohemian uprisings and mutinies gave us a new understanding of their extent. It became clear now that here was a little nation—little, yet three times as populous as America in 1776—no part of which was free, an entire people bound to a system and a dynasty which they loathed, and which repaid their loathing with wholesale massacre.
From this time on, the voyages of exploration of these new coasts have been unceasing; and with the aid of Thomas G. Masaryk, Andre Cheradame and President Wilson, the American people have succeeded in getting a pretty fair map of the newly discovered territory. They know now that down across the center of Europe, between Germany and Russia, stretches a zone of little nations—Letts, Lithuanians, Poles, Bohemians, Magyars, Roumanians, Serbs, Croats, Bulgars, Greeks. At the beginning of this war, not one of these nations, save Bulgaria, was wholly independent. All the others had country men in bondage, like the Serbs, or were entirely submerged, like the Bohemians and Poles, or had traded liberty for the chance to play petty tyrant at the expense of still weaker neighbors, like the Magyars.
In a word, the zone of small nations was likewise the slave zone, the prison house of Europe; and the war has assumed the character of a crusade to knock off the fetters and let the oppressed go free. This much progress, at least, has been achieved, that the problem is now partly understood, and that the imprisoned peoples have only a single jailer—the Pan-German empire. But it is to be feared that in America, the factors which make this war of liberation not only righteous but compulsory are still imperfectly grasped.
The liberty of the little nations is necessary to our own peace, freedom and safety. That is the last remaining discovery which the American people must make.
Long before the white men went there, the natives of India caught wild elephants in snares, trained them, and then used them to catch other wild elephants. That is precisely what the Hohenzollerns and Hapsburgs have been doing with the free peoples of Central Europe for almost as long a time. When the war broke, Germany commanded the services, the treasure and the blood of 6,000,000 non-Germans within her own borders and of 40,000,000 non-Germans in Austria-Hungary. Turkey and Bulgaria added 27,000,000 serfs and allies to the list of Pan-German subjects, the conquest of Poland, Finland, Lithuania and the Ukraine increased the number still farther, till today, the kaiser's will is law to more than 200,000,000 people, only 73,000,000 of whom are Germans, and only 94,000,000 of whom are Germans, Magyars, Bulgars and Turks.
Give him time to organize this vast population, crush out their national cultures and school them to blind obedience, and the kaiser will rule the world. In sheer self defense, we must break his grip and free his slaves.
The little nations of Europe are the outposts of our own liberty. We must see that their own freedom is made secure. It will be the hardest task ever set for modern diplomacy, but it can be accomplished—because it must. Our own fate is bound up with the fate of the little nations whose very names were unfamiliar to us a few short years ago, and as we deal with them, so will the future deal with our own nation.
This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1928.
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