we're Fumlling Victory
Allied bickering and indecision is wrecking Europe and sowing the seeds of another world conflict, says this writer
Commander Stephen King-Hall
LONDON (By Cable)—The sweets of victory are turning to ashes in men’s mouths. Disillusion, misery and fear are the Three Horsemen of the Apocalypse which are riding through Europe as the first snows of winter lay a vast shroud over the carcasses of famous cities from the Rhine to the Volga. Death is marching in big battalions into Europe. Many hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of human beings may not live to see the spring of 1946.
In the new world across the Atlantic—that new world of Canada and the United States whose men twice in one generation came back to their ancestral homes to save civilization—people must be wondering whether their efforts in this last war are to prove as sterile as those made during the war of 1914-18. They must be asking themselves whether this Europe, from which their forbears sailed to make a new heaven on the old earth, is doomed forever to breed strife, contention, war, misery, hatreds and tyrannies. Above all, they must be wondering whether anything can still be
done to drag a real peace out of so complete a military victory.
In this article I shall answer those questions. I anticipate I shall shake and I hope destroy many accepted notions and unveil some illusions.
In order to understand what is happening we must begin with an analysis of some fundamentals and ask ourselves the question: “What is the object of war? Then we must relate the answer to the last war and to the meaning, if any, of unconditional surrender. This will bring us to an understanding of the course and nature of the practical problem which confronts us in Central Europe. We shall then be in a position to suggest a solution.
During the war, when I was a Member of Parliament, I often addressed large audiences on the war situation and always put the question: “What is the object of war?” In order to demonstrate to the audience their ignorance on this vital question I used to say: “The only good German is a dead German.”
When the applause had subsided it was then my duty to inform my public that though they were actively engaged in total war it was evident that they had not the slightest idea of what it was all about.
When order was restored after that one, I would put this illustrative statement to them: “The only good German is a live German who has seen so many dead Germans he has begun to hate Hitler and all his works.” That is the answer. The object of war is to change the enemy’s mind. That is all there is to it. A simple statement, but, like an atomic bomb, it contains vast implications in a very small space.
Tremendously good consequences can flow from a correct understanding of the above fundamental fact. But those today who are not blindfolded by passion, prejudice and ignorance can see that immensely evil results emerge if that truth is not understood, or, being understood, is wilfully concealed or ignored.
The object of war is not, as most people suppose, to kill the enemy, create full employment, give assured profits to farmers, promotion to generals, and other similar invariable consequences of war. The object of war is to impose your will on the enemy; to make him give up his ideas and fall in with your ideas.
The process of changing people’s ideas can be achieved by two methods: I. By persuasion or conversion; 2. By fear or destruction. The first method now is called “Political warfare.” It is the art of putting good or better ideas into the mind of your
enemy in the belief that good ideas will drive out bad ones. This is a Battle of Brains. The second method is called “Military operations,” and is the art of physically hurting the enemy so that in sheer terror and exhaustion he will say that he accepts your ideas. This is a Battle of Bodies.
if 1 had 25 pages at my disposal I could show you that the Allied strategy in this war was oxlike in its stupidity, because it ignored the Battle of Brains, in which the successful weapon is the good cause (our monopoly), and concentrated on the Battle of Bodies, which is expensive in men, material, ships, planes and tanks none of which we had in any quantity for three years. We therefore attacked our enemy where he was strongest and ignored his wide-open mental flank on the battlefield of Brains.
The danger of concentrating on the Battle of Bodies is that it leads people to confuse Military Victory with Total Victory. The distinction between Military Victory and Total Victory is this: Military Victory gives you an armistice a chance to work for Total Victory ; Total Victory is a genuine peace, a settlement, supported by a majority on both sides in the conflict.
Victory Brings Complications
HISTORY shows (study the Boer War) that in order to obtain total victory one must usually abandon the objects for which one strives in military operations. It shows, furthermore, that the more complete the military victory the harder it is to organize total victory. The late Lloyd George, who had some experience in these matters, impressed this fact upon
me in several conversations. From the beginning of the most recent war British statesmen began to express views about the peace settlement. Some of these statements make curious reading today. “In this war we are not fighting against you, the German people, for whom we have no bitter feelings.” That was said by the British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, in September, 1939. “In the postwar rearrangement Germany must he invited to co-operate as an equal.” This was in a Labor Party statement of February, 1940. Then there was the Atlantic Charter, which now seems as unsubstantial as the mists in which it was born. Finally, reversing the field, we come to the fatal error, the slogan of unconditional surrender.
It is now some years since the Allies sternly announced that this time there would be no mistake, could be no mistake, since the sign of victory would be unconditional surrender, final and absolute. There w'ere to be no ifs and buts; no perhaps or perhaps not; nothing but surrender and surrender unconditional. To the mass of the Allied people, to 80% of the British House of Commons, it sounded foolproof. It had the simplicity and finality of death.
This phrase, cooked upI believe—by Churchill and Roosevelt at Casablanca (one can’t blame the Russians for this one), did incalculable harm, because it made people forget all about the real object of the war and presented the struggle exclusively and absolutely in terms of military victory. It obscured most successfully the fact that military operations are the means to an end, not an end in themselves. It was a phrase which reflected the mentality which has
landed us in our present difficulties. It was a comfortable alibi and excuse used almost every w'eek in the House of Commons to avoid facing up to the real issue: “After military victory, what next?”
Incidentally it was a meaningless phrase and almost certainly greatly prolonged the duration of hostilities and increased the physical destruction which has handicapped recovery.
As long as Nazi Germany was alive and kicking it performed the convenient function of providing the Allied nations with something which had to be destroyed. As Clemenceau once said, “The art of massacring men is infinitely less complex than that of governing them.” But as the awful and embarrassing moment approached when it became apparent Nazi Germany was on its last legs, our rulers, in strict privacy, consoled themselves with the 1 >ught that the Japanese war would go on for a furtb .• period of at least one year to give the Allied natior , time to make up their minds what to do with Germany and also allow them to unwind the war machine in an orderly manner.
The atomic bomb blew ail those ideas to blazes. In an instant the victors were faced with the fearful task of peering into the dark future. As early as the beginning of 1945 it became evident the issue no longer could be evaded. A postwar plan must be prepared— and fast.
The San Francisco Conference, to create a successor to the League of Nations, and the Potsdam Conference, to decide upon the future of Germany within the world plan, revealed the realities of the situation: The atomic bomb had done much more than give the death blow to Japan. Its flash had revealed that there was a fundamental difference of outlook between on the one hand Russia, on the other the British Empire and the United States, on the subject of what kind of a New World u was to be.
THIS difference in outlook goes right back to my observations about the object of war in general and this war in particular. For while we were fighting to extirpate Nazi-Fascist ideas and replace them with democratic Four Freedoms as ruling principles of the world, Russian rulers were still firm believers in the principles of power politics and the sanctity of the Sovereign State. Moreover, Americans, though well on the right side of the moral fence (thank God), were not above a dash of good old-fashioned 19th Century Imperialism when the Pacific was under consideration.
Whether the British conversion away from power politics and toward world control of sovereign states is due to the fact that we have become more moral, or whether it is because we are no longer powerful enough to impose a Pax Brittanica on benighted foreigners, as we did for 100 years, with a huge fleet in the background, or whether it is due to a combination of these circumstances is a problem we must leave to history.
At Potsdam a vast, ridiculous and politically immoral plan was produced. It contradicted itself at every turn. It divided Germany into zones, and at the same time visualized a co-ordinated central policy for Germany to be carried out by the three big powers. But, as events are showing every day, the big powers ideologically split into two camps—the Russians do not believe that big policemen should ever be policed, and they suspect the two western policemen who have atomic bombs in their pockets.
The Potsdam agreement aimed at deindustrializing Germany and at the same time cramming 60 million Germans intoa territory not much larger than Britain. It aimed at making a distinction between industry for peace and industry for war. Over German life it demanded a degree of technical control for which the Allies have not the resources and will not have the patience. It set up a Foreign Secretaries Council; we know what happened when Molotov' came to London.
The whole scheme is collapsing in every direction. What is happening is that in the Russian zone, beyond the iron curtain, the Russians and Poles have looted the land to its bones and set up a stooge government. The Russians regard the eastern half of Germany as a subservient buffer state, in the same category as their other satellites. The Americans, who are very homesick and fed up with Europe, have set up state governments of right wing complexions, and I shall be agreeably astonished if the United States does not pull out of the business altogether as soon as possible.
The British are struggling to reconstruct their zone, treating it like an inarticulate crown colony. They are doing a magnificent administrative job on their part of the body. The French
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are determined to prevent Germany ever coming together again, and generally throw spanners into the works whenever a feeble effort is made to approach the German problem as a whole.
The whole position reminds me of an episode in a submarine in 1918, when a friend of mine, in an emergency, telephoned from the bow compartment: “I say, old boy, my end is sinking. What the hell is your end doing?” Above this confusion of clashing policies hangs the question mark as to whether we can get through the winter without a major disaster. Last but not least—and its significance for the future is very ominous—millions of human beings in western Europe are saying: “So this is democracy?” To which the Communists reply: “Sure, it’s BritishAmerican democracy. Why not try our brand?”
Is There A Way Out?
What’s to he done?
First, recognize three facts:
One, no progress can be made yet with the Russians. We must go ahead without them and hope they will change their ideas. That is not impossible, as I noted when I toured the Soviet Union early this year. But we get nowhere1 except much nearer hell by allowing! western Europe to collapse in order to appease Moscow.
Two, the Ruhr industrial area is the economic heart of Europe.
Three, the atom bomb makes nonsense of unrestricted national sovereignty, so we must work rapidly toward world government.
No better place can be found to make a big step forward in merging sovereignties than in western Europe. This assertion can be anchored to much evidence. There is a historic tradition of European feeling, a tradition rooted in Roman Law. When Charlemagne was crowned Emperor of the West, in Rome, on Christmas Day, in the year 800, h»; revived an idea of Western Unity which had temporarily disappeared beneath the invading flood of barbarians from the East. Since then popes and emperors, poets and scholars have schemed and fought and sung and written for western European unity.
No part of the world has produced so many wars, hut it is also true that western Europe has been the birthplace of western civilization. It is from this area that mankind has been graced by thousandaof illust rious names. Erasmus,
Bacon, Shakespeare, Holbein, Newton, Voltaire, Leonardoda Vinci, Beethoven, Goethe, Einstein—the European hall of fame is crowded with great names in human history.
Next, it should be noted that western Europe is the home of parliamentary democracy. Also, from the North Cape to Italy, from Vienna to Galway, the Christian ethic is accepted as the ideal basis of political life. This means that all the peoples and races of western Europe, in greater or lesser degree, live in a climate of opinion which is favorable to the Four Freedoms. Those who argue that western Germans have never understood the meaning of democracy had better go back to their history books.
The importance of the deep-seated existence of a common ideology in western Europe can hardly be exaggerated, for, as I have already pointed out in this article, the root cause of our present troubles is that we are trying to pretend—or have been, up until now— that there is no philosophical difference between Russian democracy and western democracy.
These are all good political and moral reasons why western Europe is a suitable place in which to effect a merging of a number of sovereignties. But there are also excellent economic | arguments. The area is well balanced in ! agriculture and industry. An abolition j of customs barriers and tariffs would j tend to a great increase of mutually ! beneficial activity in trade and industry, j I am not for one instant advocating ! that the goal of western Europe should he self-sufficiency. But we must face the fact that while the United States and Russia are capable of living independent economic lives, this is a luxury absolutely beyond the means of any state in western Europe. It should he advantageous to an increase in world trade that the western Europeans be able to bargain with the other great groups on terms of equality.
In short, the more one looks at this question with an eye unclouded by economic and political nationalisms— which, as Eden and Bevin both said a few weeks ago, are now quite absurd— the more one is astounded that so obvious a step as creation of a United States of Europe—what 1 would call “The Western European Union”—has been so long delayed.
We can wait no longer. Good business and political morality have come together in the necessity for this step.
A conference of governments and a Congress of delegates from the European Parliaments should be held without delay to plan such a union.
As regards membership, the Union should include Great Britain, France, ¡Tolland, Belgium, the Scandinavian countries, Austria, Italy, Switzerland and Greece; Spain as soon as we get rid of Franco, and Portugal without the so-called respectable dictator, Dr. Salazar. As regards Germany, west of the Oder, I should admit her tomorrow as a mandated territory with an undertaking that she be admitted to full membership not later than 1950.
As an immediate step the Union should set up a supreme economiccouncil with complete powers to mobilize all resources of western Europe for the struggle to survive. It would be helpful to the Union if it were granted at once a loan of a few billion dollars from the United States. I know this idea will cause mirth, to put it mildly, in U.S.—but I recommend such persons to remember in 1950 what I have just written. It will not seem so foolish then. But that will be too late.
In due season we must build up a western European Congress or Parliament and plan a common citizenship and Union law.
Let me admit at once that the action I propose will evoke a violent protest from Russia and some protest from American commercial interests. The answers are that Russia can survive with a Europe in ruins. So can the
United States. But Britain and all I western Europe are entitled to organize themselves to save themselves, and intend to do so. In this proposal, there is no menace to Russian security or to American desire for world trade. Nor need Empire preference advocates take alarm. A bankrupt, chaotic Europe is a world menace. A prosperous Europe is a world asset, and it would have world relationship through the United Nations Organization with the British Commonwealth, Soviet Union, United States and perhaps a South American federal system.
This is only the outline of an idea. But it is the only practical way out of the dilemma.
One last word. A prerequisite for all this is leadership. Where must this be found? 1 answer: This is Britain’s duty. Supported and sustained in our task by the moral backing and material assistance of our sister democracies in the Commonwealth, the people of this Island must throw off war fatigue and show that the most famous and ancient of existing democracies can once again save western Europe from disaster and destruction. Only in this way can western Europe play its full part in helping man, now master of atomic energy, relegate the term, “struggle for existence,” to history books of the preatomic age.