Imatges de pÓgina
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possibly foresee; it may be for any one of the periods. And the reason for the uncertainty lies in the distressing but undeniable fact that the continuance of the delay in putting an end to the period of security will not be determined by ourselves, but depends on events which are either beyond our own control, or are under the control of others. So long as the political barometer keeps steady at 'Set Fair'; so long as India and the Mediterranean route to India make no fresh demands on our land forces; so long as the Admiralissimo of our fileets has one and only one available employment for those fleets, namely, practising the protection of our shores against a non-existent hostile foe, so long may Britishers buy and sell, marry and be given in marriage, and carry on their ordinary normal occupations with confidence. But in these days of nations topographically far apart, yet, owing to the practical annihilation of space, actually jostling against each other in their rivalries, the political barometer is liable to great and sudden fluctuations, and may at any moment fall to

Stormy.' The East may make large demands on our small force of well-trained troops at home; the Admiralissimo may have to show the mobility of his fleets far away from our shores against living, bitter and determined enemies, and then, it may be in a month's time, how about the defence of the heart and vitals of the Empire against France or Germany, or perhaps both? For to either of them the temptation to aggression may be insurmountable. What is hopelessly impracticable to-day may have become hopefully practicable to-morrow. Which of these two countries is destined to be the first to terminate its present friendship with us, and to adopt in place of

it a hostile attitude, would be impossible, in the whirligig of inter• national politics, for any one to predict. But even the best and most

intimate personal friends sometimes quarrel unexpectedly, and so do nations. And the unexpected may come at any moment. The issue then depends mainly on which of the friends quarrelling has been best prepared for the disagreeable eventuality.

How France stands in her preparation for possible quarrels with other nations I do not know; but I do know something of how these matters stand in Germany, and therefore, and for this reason alone, I propose to restrict my remarks to that country. Germany is, in this respect, certainly formidable, owing to her always steadily keeping in view the possibility of any 'hopefully practicable' arising within her sphere of action, and to her quietly preparing accordingly for its advent. From the earliest days of the gradual recovery of Prussia from the crushing blows delivered on her by the Great Napoleon, up to to-day, her military policy has been one and the same, namely, look well forward ; prepare thoroughly, the more quietly the better, for what lies in the future; do not rest on laurels gained, nor be satisfied with only the deeds of the past. On Germans, it is the present and the future that have the pressing calls. And Germany

knows right well that preparation for war is not only one of the principal factors of success in war, but is an equally powerful factor in maintaining peace, should peace be considered at any time preferable to war. So she is always preparing for war, constantly, steadily, without break or pause, and her preparation is thorough. Those who have seen anything of the German Army in peace time cannot fail to have been struck with the constancy and the thoroughness of the preparation. But the preparation is not always for purposes of offence ; and the thoroughness has to be paid for with a great expenditure of personal time, labour, and self-sacrifice. I have seen, in my many visits to Metz and Alsace-Lorraine in past years, many instances of this thorough preparation; and I was much impressed on one occasion with the reply given to me by my old friend the late Lieut.-General von Wright, himself an Englishman by birth, when I expressed my great admiration for the system ; his reply was to the following effect: 'Yes, you English officers quite rightly admire our incessant preparation ; thorough it is, and it is universal in the army; but on us Germans it imposes burdens heavy to bear; and what makes us individually willing and ready to bear them is the instinct of self-preservation.' And this self-preservation was identical with national self-preservation.

To one branch of this preparation, not however involving any selfsacrifice, I have lately called attention elsewhere, and I refer to it again here. It is the acquiring and amassing details of the local topography of any possible future theatre of war. The knowledge possessed of these details by the Germans with regard to the United Kingdom is remarkable. One of my friends, touring in the Black Forest, was surprised to come across Germans who seemed to be well acquainted with a district at home which he knew ; and he told me of the surprise of a priest of the Catholic Church in Ireland, at finding in Germany people who knew the large town which was his cure of souls, quite as well as he himself did. The priest assigned to itinerant German bands the credit for obtaining the information.

But they go, these Germans, in my opinion very wisely, and quite legitimately, much further than this. Somebody, apparently in a state of alarm, as if he had discovered something new, questioned Mr. Haldane some days ago in the House of Commons as to foreigners having been discovered engaged in reconnoitring in this country. Probably the foreigners were doing so, as other foreigners had done before them. Only a year ago an officer entering a railway carriage found it occupied by British brother officers returning home from a staff or regimental ride. They had only one topic of conversation, the extraordinary fact that, whilst engaged in the work, they had tumbled clean and plump into a party of German officers engaged in identically the same occupation. The scene of the ride seemed to possess equal attractions for the military officers of both countries.

Comment is needless, for the inference is obvious, even to what is called the meanest capacity.' And the Germans know well the value even for pacific purposes of the acknowledged possession of the powers for offence. It is well, however, to be wise in time. What can't be cured must be endured. Spies and spying and scares do not enter into the matter at all; but surely if a present friend is found or known to be preparing to become a possible foe, it is only common sense to regard the friendship, however much valued, as liable to conversion into hostility, and to prepare, pari passu, to meet it. To ignore the possibility of the conversion would be suicidal.

And it seems to me that just now, with liability to complete change at any moment in the present international situation, such as I have already depicted it, we should, if that change comes, be found either absolutely defenceless at home, or, to obtain security at home, we should have to rely solely and entirely on the Admiralissimo, and have to ask him to sacrifice his mobility, and pay no attention to Imperial calls, but to stay at home and take care of us, for we have not a sufficient number of efficient trained men and of the best modern military material for us landsmen to be able to take care of ourselves. Not to respond to the Imperial calls may mean the dissolution of the Empire ; yet to comply with them may mean paralysation of its heart. But can we trust solely and entirely to the power of the Admiralissimo unaided to insure us protection, not only sufficient but permanent ? Not even the Admiralissimo-in fact no Admiralissimo-can foretell with certainty the issue of a naval battle between the vessels, large and small of to-day. No one can predict the national defensive value of any feet after one great battle, even if it emerges from it the victor. And, if I mistake not, this state of things would inevitably have been accentuated by the adoption of Mr. Haldane's original scheme, founded on the quaint, truly original and almost comical idea that our army for Home Defence should commence its preparation at the outbreak of a great war, but would not be efficient until six months had elapsed after that outbreak. Whether that scheme still holds good, or has been consigned to its appropriate place, the waste-paper basket, no one seems to know. Whether the combatants in the great war would politely and idiotically leave us six months for the preparation of a force, which would have to be taken into account by them, after their exhaustion in a six months' campaign ; or whether they would be rude and ill-mannered enough to disturb it during incubation, does not seem to have been considered.

However, we must take things as they stand to-day, our defencelessness, save what defence the Admiralissimo may be able to afford us. This is the point I desire so much to impress on those civilians, women as well as men, who may read these words; the precariousness of our defence of our home. And then, if they do but realise this, let them look, be they Unionists, Liberals, Radicals, members of the Labour Party, Socialists, or anything else, at the strange conduct of the rulers who are now in power, and with whom rests the adoption or maintenance of measures for their security.

The Secretary of State for War has now devised a scheme for meeting all our military needs, and that scheme has been adopted. I am not going to discuss the scheme itself; possibly it has within it great potentialities, but they are potentialities only. The scheme has, however, unfortunately, one vital weakness, namely, the time required for full fruition, the time that must elapse before it can produce power sufficient and sufficiently trustworthy for the Land Defence of our Home. Until that fruition comes, we are defenceless, save by reducing our Naval Forces to a condition of immobility, in which they must remain, however pressing, urgent and important may be the calls on them from elsewhere. To introduce his scheme Mr. Haldane has already got rid of a certain amount of fairly reliable defensive power of the same kind as that he purposes to eventually substitute for it; and in so doing he has thrown away birds-in-hand for others which are still in the bush, and which, for aught he knows, may elect to stay there. He has gone even further; we had at home a certain amount of really reliable defensive power, in regular artillery and regular infantry, but he has reduced greatly the amount of both and, if report speaks true, more may be thrown away at the first opportunity. Surely, if Mr. Haldane had a private house resting on foundations fairly sound, but which he considered unsuitable, he would not remove the old foundations until those to replace them were ready for use. Yet for home defence he has gone, and is going, on diametrically opposite principles. He and his colleagues know perfectly well that whether there would be time for the replacement of the house foundations depended entirely on meteorological conditions. If storms and gales did not set in, the work might be completed in time, and the house be even more stable than before, but it is on this is that everything, everything, depends. Similarly the satisfactory building up of Mr. Haldane's new Defensive Force depends entirely on an if, and an if only. In the case of the house, it would be a risk of merely a private character. In the case of Home Defence a similar line of conduct seems to be nothing more or less than a national political gamble, more shameless, more unprincipled, and more iniquitous than are any of those that are perpetrated inside and outside the Stock Exchanges and Bourses of Europe. It may purchase votes, and may hold together a heterogeneous majority in the House; as regards national interests it is little less than a betrayal for a time-serving purpose.

In a leading article in a high-class London paper, I find myself charged with having in a letter to the Times dealt with war as 'imminent.' But I do not hold this view in any way. My point is the hopeless uncertainty as to whether war or an outbreak somewhere or

other, and involving this country, is or is not 'imminent.' It is the existence of this uncertainty that causes our present insecurity, an insecurity acknowledged by the vast majority of all who have studied the subject to be a matter of vital, pressing and immediate importance. Our rulers seem to be fanatical believers in the scriptural injunction to take no thought for the morrow, but to let the morrow take thought for itself.

Just now, though there is much sunshine, there are unpleasant rumblings ' in the air ; whether a storm or a succession of storms is coming up, no one can tell. Surely it is the duty of our rulers to be prepared with protection for us in case the storm does come ; we had some little available protection a short time ago, but of this they have already taken away from us much, and it is said that they purpose to deprive us yet of more; and then, if the storm bursts on us, where shall we be ? Ruined as individuals and as a nation, and past hope of recovery. Let those whom I am specially addressing take this warning to heart, let them ponder over it, and then by their influence aid to induce the country to insist on our rulers holding their hands ' in time in their mad career.

In speaking out these views on the subject I am only saying what everywhere soldiers are saying in similar fashion, but with bated breath.' The condition of our Home Defence is thoroughly known to the rulers of every foreign Power that cares to interest itself in the matter ; to our own people it is not generally known. Reticence seems to me to savour of the proverbial ostrich. British officers of well-earned high military reputation, and holding posts of great responsibility, are debarred from giving the nation their real views. Our responsible Military Advisers are silent, at all events in public ; and who may be Mr. Haldane's real advisers no one knows. The result is that there is just now prevalent in the whole of the armed forces of this country a not unnatural feeling of military leaderlessness. They feel that the control of the military armed strength of the nation is in the hands of civilians only, and that once more in our history its destiny may be no longer to be in accordance with national needs, but with better recognised needs—those of party politics. Whoever may be the nominal leader, the real leader seems to be a civilian Secretary of State for War, aided by an 'Army Council.' They regard the latter, however, as of no protective value ; but, and rightly, as a cleverly devised machine for the suppression of the individual responsibility of its members, by the merging that responsibility into the easily-borne corporate responsibility of all. So the duty of speaking out necessarily devolves on the unofficial 'smaller fry,' of which I am one. And it is in no spirit of presumption that I have done so. A short time ago, Mr. Haldane was pressed about a warning said to have been given by a well-known General on the Active List, and in high command, as to a friend across the water

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