Optimism That is Harmful
Because it is Causing a Slackening of War Effort in Canada
Lieut.-Col. J. B. Maclean
THE magnificent work done by the Allied Armies under Foch has been played up by unthinking newspaper writers in a style that has created an extreme of optimism that is not justified, that actual experiences show to be harmful. It is taking the pressure off war effort generally. Workers on munitions and supplies are easing up. Even the military authorities are slackening in their enlistments of men to maintain our fighting forces.
A Canadian manufacturer has just refused to fill a large war order from the British Government—for a product which is much needed by our men in France— a product of which we have abundant supplies of raw material here, which has not advanced much in price. To fill it an extension of plant costing about $100,000 would be necessary. The directors of this concern after giving a careful consideration decided that they could not afford to take chances unless the war lasted for another year or so. Current information lea them to the conclusion the war would be over by spring at the latest.
Other manufacturers, convinced a yeai or so ago that the war was to be a long one, laid in a couple of years’ supplies of raw material. They have recently been thrown into a panic and fearing a slump in values they have been trying to unload their stock.
This condition is typical of the situation in Canada to-day; but it is not warranted by the general war situation.
Germany still holds as much of France and Belgium as she had in 1914. She is still very strong in men, money and supplies. She is better off than we are in cost of war so far. Having been previously organized for a great war, her expenses have been much less than ours. Captured territory has added billions to her cash, labor and resources. We have driven her back over the Hindenburg line, but our captures of men and supplies have been small compared with what she got from us.
The only way to an early peace is a complete breakdown in German morale or a compromise. Any compromise is a German victory. And to us Canadians, Americans, and red-blooded Old Countrymen anything but complete and decisive victory, the complete surrender of the entire enemy armies, with terms dictated by us in Berlin, is unthinkable. Germany is rich enough and the people are resourceful enough, efficient enough to pay all our war expenditures and the pensions and indemnities it will entail. The American national spirit is so splendid we can feel assured they will back us up and there will be no compromise. And so far there have unfortunately been no marked signs of breakdown in German preparedness to fight on. In fact more weakness has been shown in England than in Germany— right in the British Cabinet and public service. But things are improving— have improved since Borden and Hughes strengthened Lloyd-George’s support.
AT the request of several New York bankers N. D. Hillis and Lawrence Chamberlain went to Europe about a year ago to investigate the situation and give them an intelligent report—something authentic to be used in connection with the National Loan campaign. They wanted to know the real truth—not the censored truth supplied by such pacifists ns Lord Buckmaster. They felt that it was to the last degree important that the Americans should know the strength of the adversary. Prudent men never underestimate their opponents. Brave men want to know the worst that can be said truthfully. Only men like Mr. Robinson of the Toronto Telegram and Mr. Smith of the Toronto News are afraid of the truth—afraid of its effect on their weak-minded readers.
Mr. Hillis found that three years of battle alone had lessened the wealth of the Allied nations, but vastly increased the treasures of Germany. This war has cost Great Britain thirty billions of dollars, it has cost France twenty billions, it has cost the United States ten billions. For these billions expended there has been for the Allies no financial return. In striking contrast thereto, consider that if Germany has spent twenty billions upon this war, she has won another twenty billions, and even claims to have won thirty billions. Thus far, her armies, like those of ancient Rome, have looted four countries. She has carried away their gold, silver, copper, iron, steel, stocks, bonds, she has stolen their locomotives, passenger coaches, freight ears, wagons, automobiles, with all the goods of merchants. In the face of her solemn treaties she has stolen the horses, Cattle, oxen, sheep. She has spoiled the granaries of their wheat, rye and barley. She has looted the Belgian and French factories of their machinery and carried away the looms from the mills for cotton, wool and silk. The total value of the steel mills of Belgium and of France, with all lathes and stationary engines, is almost incalculable. She looted the iron and coal mines of Belgium and France and the wells of Roumania for the oil; she has looted the mines of Poland, Roumania and Serbia of their bronze, lead, zinc, copper. She has loaded thousands upon thousands of freight trains with household furniture, agricultural implements, goods from the merchants’ stores, art treasures from public galleries, as well as from private houses. In every city and town, in every store and farmer’s house, the Germans attack first of all the safety vaults and the little money chest of rich and poor alike. Germany found Belgium worth twenty billions of dollars. It is probable that she has spoiled Belgium of at least eight billions. The national fortunes of the invaded territories were estimated at fifty billions and most of this, after three years, is now in the hands of the Germans. Each attack made by Gerinany has been against a rich people whose treasure she could loot, while every attack made by
the Allies has been to recover a land already devastated, poor and helpless.
“The peril of the Allies is the greater because of the vicious methods used by Germany. All military experts know that wars are fought incidentally with guns at the trenches, but in reality with granaries at the rear. Better a million well-fed men with naked fists than two million of armed men who are starving, for the starving men will soon be too weak to lift the guns and the well-fed men will grasp the weapons. From the viewpoint of food resources, Germany has from the beginning occupied a unique position in that she is rimmed all around about with little nations unprepared and unarmed, and therefore impotent to protect their granaries and root cellars, their herds and flocks, when Germans came in to steal them. Whenever Germany has, therefore, been short of food, she has organized an expedition and looted some land like Belgium, as Poland. The next winter she sends an army out to loot Roumania. When the harvests had been gathered in upon the fields of Italy. Germany set out to despoil that land.
“Whenever she has had to withdraw a million men from the fields to send them to the front Germany has impressed another million from Belgium, Poland or Roumania, and forced these slaves to plough her fields, reap her harvests, and all without wage. Sometimes she has gone through the form of buying grain from the Balkan States, but she has forced these peoples to take in return paper currency, which she can grind out so long as the printing presses hold out and which in the event of defeat she can easily repudiate. On the other hand, when Turkey and Bulgaria have turned towards Germany for guns and munitions, since they had nowhere else to go, Berlin has forced their rulers to pay in gold and silver. Germany’s claim is probably true that her people are as well fed during the fourth winter of the war as they were during the first winter. These are not pleasant matters to consider, but these are the facts. Wise men want to know the facts, and then they know what plans they must make to overcome the worst and turn it into the best. Better be a wise pessimist than an ignorant optimist. Uninformed Micawbers always waiting for something to turn up have no place in this world war.
“The query, ‘How goes the battle?’ involves the statement that Germany is now fighting this war at the expense of her neighbors. Her great Krupp factories are using enormous quantities of coal, but it is Belgian coal. Every week, she consumes vast stores of rich iron ore, but it is French ore. Her motors, trucks, military cars, consume oceans of oil; this oil comes from Roumania. Each month she bums up human muscle in field and factory and shop, but these spent men and women are subject peoples. In a thous-
Continued on page 74
Optimism That is Harmful
Continued from page 49
and ways events are worked for her interests. Because she is in the centre it is very easy for Germany to transport her troops from one front to another, while it is very difficult for the United States to transport munitions and guns and food across an ocean 3,000 miles in width. It is a conservative statement to say that it does not cost Germany one-tenth as much to move a cannon from Essen to Ypres as it costs the United States to move a machine gun from Bridgeport to Cambrai and Verdun.
“Nor must we forget that we are building our iron ships with $6 a day labor, our wooden ships with $7 a day carpenters, while Germany is impressing laborers from Belgium and forcing them to work like slaves. Slowly she is starving them to death, while pretending to pay them seven cents a day for their eighteen hours of toil. When one group of men breaks down and dies, Germany simply forces at the point of the bayonet another group to take their places. Brutality, savagery, have an enormous advantage over civilized States. One wolf is equal to a hundred sheep and a thousand lambs. Thus far Germany has not lost one inch of territory, and this fact must be considered when we raise the question as to how goes the battle?
“Ignorant of the real situation, underestimating the peril that is upon the United States, some of our citizens never tire of telling about our one hundred million of people, our two hundred and fifty billions of wealth, our possible ten millions of soldiers, and upon the basis of these considerations they count the war ended, and win battles by waving perils into thin air. Others say that in a moral universe, injustice and cruelty cannot be victorious, and that in the nature of the case Germany must be beaten, quite forgetting that Belgium has been beaten, and so have Alsace and Lorraine. It is a truism that what has been may be. A just God permitted the first republic, Athens, to be ruined by her military neighbor, Macedonia. The story how the militarism of Macedonia brought about the fall of Athens, and contributed to dark ages, makes up a black page in the history of liberty.”
This is not pessimism. It is the kind of information necessary to make us realize how much is yet to be done. It shows the absolute necessity of maintaining and increasing our war effort and insisting upon efficiency in the higher commands, if we would save lives and shorten the
Until March last there was every reason for pessimism. Up to then political, family and clique influences for selfish ends stubbornly held control of our fighting forces. Until then Divisional or Corps commanders were not allowed to select the men to command their fighting brigades. By that time there were scores of incompetent, helpless, and therefore, dangerous officers in the higher positions. Thousands of our men were sacrificed to this damnable system. The same “old gang” prevented an Allied command. They fought against P’och to the last. They went so far that American influence had to be brought to bear upon the Asquiths. The “old gang” knew that Clemenceau-Wilson-Foch would not stand for inefficiency, f’rom the moment the change took place in March those of us who had argued that war was serious
business on a big scale became optimists. Developments show we were right.
Some writers in the rag-time press have called me an “arm chair critic,” i.e. one who shows the generals where their strategy and tactics are wrong and tells them what to do. This is something I have never been guilty of. Thirty-five years’ soldiering and with war as my favorite study taught me that only the man on the spot should criticise. My whole aim has been to back up our army and navy by securing for them political and other conditions that would ensure finding brave, fearless, able political leaders, who would find the most capable military and naval commanders, give them a free hand and make them responsible for winning the war, the rest of us carrying out their wishes in every detail, supporting them with our last man and dollar. Concerning strategy, however, I am permitted to quote from a letter recently received from one of the greatest of the British Generals. He writes:—
“Personally I never felt really anxious about the enemy’s latest offensive. I have believed that the lines in the west were impenetrable to either side. I still hold that view. The Germans have been preparing their whole organization for the Western front operations in much the same sort of way as engineers prepare lines to run their locomotives along. The Germans are prepared to take on all the world in that particular small cockpit. If the morale of their armies holds they will succeed in this. If it does not, no doubt we shall overcome all obstacles. The Americans are pouring nearly everything into this particular arena. Geographically and strategically the weak point of Germany is the East, not the West; and the mode of approach to Berlin is up the valley of the Oder. To drive the enemy back over the Rhine and move on to Prussia that way is a prodigious affair. We may do it, but it is doing it against the grain of geography. Even now I would sooner see a development of the Siberian move although the distances are enormous. Possibly, also, if the Americans can spare some troops to help the Italians we might strike where the weaker partner would collapse. The Dardanelles was the real way through, but there was not sufficient conviction in high quarters.”
All may not agree with his strategy, but his army record compels us to treat it with greatest respect. Our strongest hope is in the weakening of the German morale. Napoleon said that in war the value of morale was at 3 to 1, and the maintenance of morale in the old days was an easy task compared with the nerve racking strain on the battlefield, supplemented by the air raids that are to come upon the German cities.
All this information shows that this is a time to increase not to slacken our efforts in Canada to meet every demand or suggestion made upon us by our fighting units for men or supplies and the BordenHughes Canada-Australian combination must continue to back up the efforts of the group at home which is steadily eliminating the idle rich, whom, as Sir George Paish recently said in the Statist, the British in their folly have kept in authority while they sported with our resources as if they were in a gambling chamber. Sir George was an optimist in 1914. He now writes much as I have been
writing for four years: “As things stand at present we shall have grounds for congratulating ourselves if we are in a position to dictate the requisite kind of peace to our adversary. Everybody engaged in the conflict should bear in mind that we have heaped up such a burden of debt and thrown away so much of our trade that all our future depends upon the completeness of the victory, and upon securing time enough to do everything that may be necessary to pay off that debt and to recover our trade. We must have at least two generations of complete peace if we are to escape from the consequences of this utterly mismanaged struggle. We have to make up for the follies and the wickedness that have been committed by our idle rich and therefore we need a very long peace, and a peace that will not be disturbed by frequent alarms of impending war. To secure such a peace an example must be made of the wilful and guilty breaker of all pledges and all treaties, and we must be secure in the belief that we really have ample time to make good all the follies of our rulers.”
npHE Globe points out that I was mis-*taken in the statement that Hon. Mr. Rowell is a director of that newspaper. This is the first intimation I had that Mr. Rowell had resigned. However, I am informed that the intimacy between these two great forces in public affairs continues as strong as ever and there is much speculation in Liberal circles over the future. The view is expressed that the Globe may become the Conservative newspaper with Mr. Rowell as leader of the Conservative party. At present the Advertiser, London, is regarded as the daily mouthpiece of Liberal thought in Ontario. The Globe, however, is strengthening its hold on the religious and moral forces in the province.
The Globe farther accuses me of living in a world of brilliant but somewhat disordered imagination. This is exactly how what I have been writing must appeal to Mr. Lyon, the editor. He is a theorist; lives in the clouds; a leader in social reform; a Glasgow socialist. The live things in current events do not interest him. He was for a time Canadian war correspondent in France. There he was a brilliant success—from the standpoint of the “old gang.” Captain Sinclair who was here the other day said he “was most popular at Army Headquarters because he never asked questions." Here we at last have the explanation of why the Canadian public has been so badly served with the general news about our own army at the front—a grave injustice to a body of men, who have had no superior in the world’s history.
Last month I spoke of the two papers which stood out above all others in continuing to demand the immediate return of Sir Robert Borden and the Ministers with him in London, The Globe and The Star, Toronto. With the Prime Minister was Hon. Mr. Rowell. He had not been invited. He represented no government department and his presence there was strongly opposed by other members of the government. Yet these papers made no reference to Mr. Rowell —but concentrated their attack mainly on Sir Robert. After showing the very great importance to Canada and to our army particularly of having the Prime Minister there to defend these interests, Mr Rowell was urged to repudiate the policy of his organs. He did so at the earliest opportunity. All thinking Canadians will join us in tendering him our best congratulations and thanks.