Why We Are Losing the War
John Bayne Maclean
FAILURES and disappointments have been our experience during the past twelve months. War conditions are growing steadily worse.
The general outlook to-day is just about as black as it can be.
The greatest shock to our pride seems to be developing—a setback to the insane strategy forced upon our military by interfering politicians. The first sign of our partial defeat is the shading down of our war aims.
The Asquith-Churchill-GreyBalfour family laid down very definite objects which we proposed to attain — which could easily have been attained but for the damnable incompetence and the refusal of these men to listen to the naval and military heads and the other great executives of the nation. Now we are told by Lloyd George, Henderson and others that it was never intended to humiliate the Germans by war or to exterminate them in a business way after. I pointed out at the time that the Paris Economic Conference was a joke—made up as it was of unpractical men, like our own Sir George Foster, while Asouith refused to allow Premier Hughes to attend. Later Mr. Asquith made a statement in the House of Commons concerning it, which Mr. Hughes described as a deliberate falsehood. It looks as though we were now being prepared for a compromise peace with Germany. Any peace but the complete defeat of Germany means a German victory.
Germany could give up and indemnify Belgium and France; give up Alsace-Lorraine and all her colonies; and still win the war. More important to Germany are Austria-Hungary, the Balkans and Turkey. They will become part of a German Empire. They, and perhaps Sweden, wrll be absorbed as Prussia took in the states now forming the German Empire.
There are some rays of hope. It is not yet too late to help Russia back on our side, and there are signs that the influence of the family compact, that has so woefully misdirected our Imperial affairs, is weakening.
We can’t win Russia back with prayers and statesmanship, but we can with cash and saloon politics. I am not belittling prayer. I have had to say more prayers than most men. But there are time? when they do not seem in place—ns the late Bishop Strachan told his clergy. “What’s the use of praying for rain when there’s not a cloud in the sky?” To bring Russia back we need entirely new methods, and we can’t have new methods until we get new men. As Frank Munsey. the publisher-financier, once said: “You can’t get out of a man what God Almighty
did not put into him. You can’t fit the job to the man, you must fit the man to the job.” The success of British recruiting in Boston and its failure in New York is an example of what I mean. Colonel Guthrie, a New Brunswick lawyer, a member of the Legisture and a clever local politician, whose regiment was practically wiped out in France, went to Boston to recruit men for a new battalion. He was told he could not expect much success as the British had already worked the city, but perhaps they’ might be interested in a Canadian regiment. In Boston they had a strong Irish Home Rule anti-British mayor, a powerful man with the masses. Guthrie's first move was to call on him, figuratively slap him on the back, tell his story and ask his help. That was an approach no human man could resent. The Mayor dropped everything to help. He soon had all the “boys” and the press in Boston working. When the Mayor and the Colonel had their last drink in a saloon in the Irish ward at the end of the first day’s recruiting they were calling each other by their pet names. No outsider ever got such a cordial reception. He needed about r>00 men to complete, but in a few days he had over 2.fiOO and had to stop.
Ilis success reached the ears of the British authorities in New York. They sent an urgent call for his assistance: but they would have none of hi? methods. Instead, the proeed.ire had to be dignified. A public meeting was held, opened with prayer and conducted in the usual orthodox style. The clergy and other distinguished citizens were on the platform. Fashionable society was in the audience. But eligible recruit? were not. Colonel Guthrie was entertained. He was popular in exclusive society circles, but possible recruits saw him only when he marched through the streets with his pipers. At the end of a week only fifty-seven recruits had come in. It was not the fault of the men of the British Mission, who are splendid
soldiers, but of the system which fails to recognize and deal with conditions.
WITH everything in our favor from the German retreat of the Marne; with a wonderfully magnificent army and navy — invincible soldiers and sailors; with our various departments marvellously organized ; with numbers vastly superior to the enemy, with superior stamina and wealth ; with greater supplies of every kind; with everything necessary to ensure a decisive victory before now; with all these points in our favor we have frittered away tremendous advantages until only a miracle, by the grace of God, can now enable us to win.
The causes of our failures and losses are the members of the clique of incompetent professional politicians in London who refused or refuse to resign or to bring in the experts who can meet our enemy on equal terms.
The great advantages are decidedly on the side of Germany to-day. Yet the Germans, even when they have massed superior numbers, have not once won a decisive victory over us. In a cleancut fair fight our soldiers have never been defeated. If this war were between armies it would have been over long ago. But they have beaten us so far because they have made the war a_ business — and this is a business war.' Don’t interpret this as a war inspired by business — an impression constantly sought to be conveyed by certain political interests and believed by many in Canada. War is the last condition sane business wants. I heard a U.S. professor once say that history shows that great wars began with small trivialities and I can’t get away from the belief that this war had its beginning in the petty jealousies between the Kaiser and the late King Edward and had no connection with business rivalries. There are many influential Englishmen who hold this view.
The seed was sown, when, after an official dinner to the Kaiser on the Royal yacht, King Edward, then Prince of Wales, told his nephew that he desired to introduce some ladies of his court circle. The Kaiser, who is very much of a Puritan, excused himself saying that, being a ruler over a great people, he could not afford to meet them. This story was told me years ago in condemnation of the Kaiser, by one of the ladies—and oddly enough confirmed since the war by a distinguished Englishman who knew all the facts, but who condemned the Prince—so that it is undoubtedly true. This was the beginning. There was constant friction and jealousy between the two monarchs. The deep anxiety that prevailed in court and higher political circles over subsequent bickerings during the whole of King Edward’s rule leaves no doubt as
to the great importance that was attributed to them. And I have no doubt the women who were snubbed on that early occasion took no steps to discourage ill feeling. More than one mishap of this war is attributed to the interference of highly placed women.
I am not saying that King Edward was to blame. A Russian diplomat, writing in 1915, gave him the entire credit for the Russian-British Alliance. He drew Britain out of her position of “splendid isolation.”
Time alone will tell whether he was right. King Edward had some rare qualifications, yet as history unfolds our present Sovereign will stand out as much the better man. When one sees and learns much of the private life of many of the rulers and lesser Royalties of the continent, he cannot help but thank God for King George and Queen Mary. In fact the Duke of Sutherland, who knew both well, said in 1909 that misunderstandings with Germany could never have arisen under King George. He considered our present King a very safe, sane man, with less assurance and affability, but much more capability than his father. There is so much information from the best of sources on this phase, but space will not permit more at the present time. The point I desire to bring out very strongly is that British business is absolutely blameless as an irritating original cause of the war.
Last month I showed how splendidly the Americans are doing because they called in their experts to help.1 They expect to make mistakes, but they boldly
and publicly investigate them. They eliminate the incompetents and expose highly placed offenders. We have refused right along to consider a policy of conscripting our experts, and we reward incompetents. Because of this, and through no fault of our army, we are losing the war. I do not believe the Germans have it in them to beat our armies on the Western front, but we will have to beat them there or they will win the war. It is only by exposing the rotten state of political affairs at our Imperial Headquarters, and the reasons therefor, and by adopting the remedies that suggest themselves to any man with good business experience and ordinary common sense that we can hope to turn the tide and win this war. Our naval and military leaders are confident they can win, if we give them the support they need. This is what we must do.
This is a business war. Germany is conducting it exactly as a big unscrupulous corporation proceeds to develop a business monopoly. Germany knows she has no chance against our army and navy in a fair fight Therefore, she has adopted the familiar methods, so often exposed, of the big combines in this country plus the tactics of petty politicians. She has corrupted the leading employees of her competitors. She has bribed them. She has blackmailed them. She has intrigued and spread false stories. She has had her agents everywhere among us stirring up strikes and destroying our plants. The German is not. a clever, quick-witted individual, but he studies situations and adopts the most efficient method of doing things. Germany found it was cheaper to buy the enemy than fight him, and when she had to fight she concentrated overwhelming armies. Our intellectuals muddled along in diplomacy and against all military experience and advice distributed our forces in small armies in all climes to fight picayune wars.
LET me run over a few important incidents—and there are many more— that will show how Asquith, Grey. Churchill, Balfour, Carson and other brilliant intellectuals have in point of fact been aiding and are still aiding and cooperating with the Germans. In former articles I showed how we suffered in the early days from the over-confidence of our politicians and their incapacity; from the criminal actions of Asquith and Churchill, in direct opposition to the advice of our naval and military experts. All Canadians will be amazed and disgusted with the tales of helplessness, inefficiency and plain unadulterated graft that have gone unpunished and under which the British have aided Germany to obtain the supplies she most needed to defeat us.
I began writing these war articles in The Financial Post in 1914—though a couple appeared in 1912—for the information of financial and business interests in Canada and because I felt even business men, quick and sensitive as they usually are to grasp situations, failed to realize the seriousness of the outlook. My time was very much occupied with my own affairs. I had no thought of more than occasional short articles under the title, “The Nation’s Business,” leaving the handling of the problems to our own special writers.
Some of these articles were reprinted and read in England, and one morning I received a cable from Sir Charles Macara, Bart., Manchester, urging that copies of one of these articles should go to members of the British Parliament and press and adding, “Such advice invaluable in present crisis.” All I knew of Sir Charles was that he was one of the big men in the world’s cotton industry and 1 sent an enquiry to my London office for all the information they could give me about him. The largest cotton operator in the United States told me Sir Charles was regarded as one of the ablest of British business men — a man who had done more than any other to put the cotton industry and British labor on a sound, satisfactory basis. Our London office gave me some very interesting information on his war activities. It was the perusal of these and some private letters and reports from several other sources that showed why we were always failing.
Let us begin with guns. In the first months of the war we were startled to find that an important British firm, a partner in which was a member of the Cabinet, had been selling metals to the enemy. At that time it was put down to an oversight. Subsequent experience would indicate it was intentional.
The late Sir William Ramsay and other noted British scientists pointed out that not a single German mine, submarine, torpedo, shell or even rifle or machine gun bullet could be fired without the use of cotton. It was known by the International Cotton Federation that the supply in Germany was comparatively small and only sufficient to last for a few months.
Sir Charles Macara, President of the International Cotton Federation, was visited by two representatives of the British Government, and on his advice financial
arrangements were made and carried out which averted a grave crisis in the industry. Sir Charles then pointed out to the Government the statistical situation of the German supply; suggested that the Government buy and store all available cotton at current market prices, which were very low and, as the British had command of the sea, prevent any cotton whatever getting into Germany. Neutral buyers would continue to receive their regular average supply. The question of the control of the world’s supply was not a new one. It had actually been carried out; those interested in the cotton industry buying supplies in heavy crop years to tide them over low periods. Leading business men, scientists and soldiers strongly and persistently supported him
in this policy. So accurately had the Cotton Federation gauged the supply in Germany that Sir Charles definitely stated that had cotton been declared contraband the tear would have been over by Christmas, 1914, or at the latest March of the following year. The question was up to the Foreign Minister. Sir Edward Grey for over a year remained inactive to a continual bombardment by scientists and the press, and on one ocasion declared: “His Majesty’s Government has never put cotton on the list of contraband. They have throughout the war left it on the free list and on every occasion when questioned on the point they have stated their intention of adhering to this practice.” German successes made the British people desperate, and finally a great mass meeting assembled at Queen’s Hall, London, on August 11th, 1915. The pressure became so strong that a few days later Sir Edward Grey had to make cotton absolute contraband. It had a marked effect, though millions of pounds had been pouring into Germany in anticipation of such action through Italy, Holland and even from Britain itself. Immediately that cotton was made contraband the textile mills in enemy countries began to close down. Lately they paid $40 a pound for ordinary yarns bought through neutrals.
One of the latest exposures is that Great Britain has been supplying Germany with the material that goes into the uniform worn by the Kaiser’s soldiers who are charged with the duty of annhilating Britain and all things British. The War Trade Department report, which was got out in London, indicates this. It states that British woollens exported to neutral countries in abnormal quantities found their way to Germany, where they are being used for military purposes. Such exports were not stopped until November, 1917, and the extraordinary plea is made in the report that the economy was necessary with a view of saving wool for British military requirements. The report further admits the scarcity of certain woollen supplies in Great Britain which was so bad that, except for military requirements, there was little chance of exports being allowed even to British dominions.
Continued on p. 99.
Why We Are Losing the War
Continued from page 13.
On the Western front our men suffered fearful hardships in the roughlybuilt, liquid-filled trenches. The British Government could not supply them even with lumber sidewalks, let alone brick and cement, to keep them out of the water. Later when they captured German territory they were amazed to find the comfort in which the enemy lived in splendidly built underground houses of cement and brick. Now it transpires that much of the cement for these and the heavilybuilt cement fortresses \jhich protected the German troops in this year’s campaign was supplied by England. And the worst feature of it is that our Foreign
Office knew it. Holland had increased her import of English cement enormously. Only the other day the Baltic Exchange protested for a third time to Mr. Balfour on this score, and, according to the cables, the Foreign Office replied that it made no difference as Germany could get plenty of cement elsewhere and that it was necessary to send cement to Holland in order to maintain the rate of exchange! That is why we are losing.
The stories of how big British shipping companies used their pull at even Canada’s expense to pile up big profits for themselves are well known in Canada, but the most outrageous graft of all was
played upon the United States. Britain, in desperate straits for food, appealed to the United States for help. A line of steamers belonging to Americans was taken off a very profitable route and used to convey food across the Atlantic. The Americans were amazed to find not long afterwards that the abandoned route had been appropriated by a well known Britisher—not a shipping man at all— whose influence was so great that he was able to commandeer British Government ships to go on the route for his personal profit.
An investigation is now in progress which, it is alleged, involves an already wealthy Englishman in what promises to be one of the biggest scandals of the war.
The same British family compact that permitted these things, that is responsible
for them, that is also respohsible for our greatest defeat, the defection of Russia, is still in control of our Imperial affairs.
One of the greatest handicaps we have had in this war has been the censorship in London. The censors have been childish, silly, idiotic, like the AsquithGrey-Haldane crowd of politicians who controlled them. Nearly every practicalstep was forced upon the Government by public opinion and the public only learned of the seriousness of conditions when some newspaper or public man defied the censor.
There is not the Slightest doubt that had the newspapers in England not been compelled to suppress information, public opinion would have insisted upon a very different state of affairs than we have to-day. Even in the matter of labor troubles the British press was forbidden to speak frankly until they became so serious that public safety demanded the facts. Almost immediately public opinion forced a settlement and it was easily and promptly arrived at It has come out recently that early in the war the Asquith Government prevented the publication of an interview that Kitchener had especially prepared to show the need for military preparations and greater activities for the struggle that impended.
On the other hand the British politicians encouraged optimism by the dissemination of false information. We have been fed up, since the war began, on stories of a starving enemy, now facing ' financial ruin, or with a revolution just about to commence. Those of us whose opinions are based on ordinary common sense—who see things as they are, and not as we want them to be—realize how injurious to our cause is such a policy. It is absurd to suggest that they would revolt against a despotic but popular ruler who has done and is doing more for bis peoDle than anv other man in modern times, while we contentedly follow a group of fearfully incompetent leaders. If the Germans in democratic Canada and the United States take the risks they do to help the Kaiser, is it likely that the people in Germany will revolt? With the exception of the offensiveness of the German official, Germany before the war was the best managed country in the world, and the Germans know it They are more intelligently and soon will be quite as well fed as the peonle are in England. If the war ended this year they would be in a better position financially than Great Britain or France. These are facts which only men with ostrich minds and precedents to guide them would seek to hide. Yet these are the men who are responsible for our present plight. Incompetent, helpless, too lazy to investigate situations or to think straight. Only two men of the original Cabinet stand out, Lloyd George and Chamberlain. The latter showed himself to be a big man when he insisted upon resigning over the Mesopotamia affair, which, by the way, rumor says was not as rotten as what happened under Imperial direction in South Africa before Smuts took hold.
To-day the British censor will not allow the British press to let out many things that ought to be known. It is said Asquith and Churchill never intended to let out the Dardanelles and Mesopotamia reports, but the facts were so frightful that the commissioners appointed by them could not’ afford to suppress them. It is a crime to be found with a copy of
Sir John Anderson’s report on Ceylon, yet Sir John is regarded as one of the ablest and most conservative of men in British public life.
Fortunately in Canada Sir Robert Borden is a very different type from Asquith. Major Chambers, our chief censor, has shown excellent judgment and infinite tact and it has been the fault of the newspapers and public men that important facts have been suppressed. In fact some of them have repeatedly urged the censor to take action against me—and I have only been touching on the fringe of the rottenness in high places! It is not sensation I am after. I am endeavoring to help policies that will win the war.
Colonial pressure, particularly the activities of Premier Hughes of Australia in appealing directly to the masses in England in the press and at a series of public meetings forced the retirement of Asquith, Churchill and Grey. It will be remembered that the frightful slaughter of Australian troops in the wholly unnecessary Dardanelles campaign created such a stir in Australia that a general bitterness against the Mother Country developed when it was found that Asquith and Churchill had personally embarked on this expedition without the authority of the Cabinet and in direct opposition to the best naval and military expert advice at the time. With the reports of two naval commissions before them, showing clearly that the objectives were impossible even under most favorable conditions, Australian public opinion forced Hughes to leave at once for England. He came to Canada first, conferred with Borden and was assured of his moral support.
Lloyd George, a man of extraordinary ability and energy—the best man in sight for the task—came in. But the old gang still maintained such a grip upon affairs that he has been unable to accomplish what was necessary to win the war. Lloyd George has had to fight the political wolves and office-holding incompetent donothings at home and carry on the war on land and water. But more particularly he has had to fight against the intrigues among the Allies. Affairs once more reached a climax when the Americans came in. They have in the most diplomatic but firm way insisted that the influence of the Old Crowd must cease and that the highly-placed grafters must be eliminated and that the war must be conducted on business lines. They have practically assumed charge, and are working in conjunction with the ablest men in England. Lord Northcliffe’s visit to the United States is an interesting side .light on conditions. Nominally he was sent out to synchronize the purchase of supplies. As a matter of fact he was induced to take over the work because do-nothings at home wanted to get such a dangerous critic out of the way. He did what he was sent to do, but fortunately he performed a much greater service—a very great service indeed. He synchronized the two peoples. For the first time American public men and journalists realized that the British and Americans were as much alike as two peas—peas in the same pod. That the real British were not the charming, simple—and to them-—funny fellows they met in our Embassy. Wilson and the great business executives and experts, who are to-day managing the nation and the war, found in Northcliffe a man worth talking to. They told him frankly the difficulties they were encountering with British officialdom. They told him a very
different story from what formal diplomatic correspondence shows. His colleague, Lord Reading, too, had access to exclusive but very influential and very unfriendly circles and effected a revolution in sentiment that is going to be most helpful to us. His great work was really done as a nominal member of the AngloFrench Loan Committee.
Northcliffe returned to England and, backed by American sentiment, is carrying on a campaign for the elimination of the incompetents and grafters and the replacing of them with the best business men and experts in the United Kingdom and the Colonies, and the conduct of our affairs on business lines. A centralizing of Allied effort is the first move. Other moves which have borne fruit are the elimination of Jellicoe as naval chief; the retirement of Spring-Rice, which we have been urging for nearly three years; the giving of more power to Geddes, a young business executive who is our great find of the war, and the probable successor to Lloyd George, who discovered him; the resignations of our whole outfit at Petrograd, who, in conjunction with Balfour, allowed the Germans to outwit us with our Russian Allies. We lost Bulgaria because Grey refused to spend a million dollars necessary to hold them. Judging from experience a good deal less than that relatively would have gone a long way toward holding the Russians who sold their country to Ger-
In fairness to Northcliffe I ought to say that none of this information comes even indirectly from him. We have been friends for over twenty years, but until recently I have never written a word in his praise. He is a Radical and I a Tory. We have not met for more than a few minutes since August, 1914, when I accepted an invitation to lunch with him in London only after he had followed up my written regrets with a personal request. He is to-day the great power we should get behind and thus force through a complete reorganization of our entire political affairs.
We have many great civilians in the Empire, but so far only four have been allowed to come to the front—Lloyd • George, Northcliffe, Reading and Geddes.
NEARLY a year ago I wrote that, because of Imperial mismanagement, only the Americans could save the naval situation for us and expressed the hope that they would not be too late. The article was telegraphed from Ottawa and appeared in a number of newspapers across Canada. I was attacked as being unpatriotic in uttering suoh “silly opinions.” Subsequent history shows my information to have been entirely correct The higher United States naval command insisted upon more freedom of action in the use of mines and destroyers and cooperated with our splendid sailors in doing what our higher cojmmand and political chiefs like Churchill, Balfour and Carson would have prevented their
Again to-day our hope lies with the Americans. Will their army be in time to win, or save us on the Western front? It cannot be a fighting factor before the autumn and not a power before the spring of 1919. It takes six months to a year to train and harden troops who can successfully oppose veterans.
The greatest service Sir Robert Borden can perform to-day is to strongly support the demand for the better con-
duct of Imperial affairs. It is his duty. He has come back strong. The people of Canada are not so docile as they are in the Mother Country. The future of our relations with our Mother Country may depend upon what happens in the next few months. That able and far-seeing man, Lord Shaughnessy, argued last summer, in conversation with a group of prominent men, that, as a result of war developments, Canada was more likely to drift into independence after the war than into closer relations with the Mother
Country. And there are a great many of us who have always fought and made sacrifices for British Imperialism, who are being driven to the same conclusions by the mismanagement, the selfishness and crookedness in Imperial affairs. The people of Canada are overwhelmingly for British connection, but they cannot be held there unless there is a complete change in the administration of Imperial war affairs.