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“THANK GOD FOR WILSON”
BY THE EDITOR
We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;
And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
Above all, taking the shield of faith
This was the resolute adjuration addressed by the great Apostle to the distracted Ephesians nearly two thousand years ago, and this is the unflinching message of our own chosen leader upon the eve of the most crucial year in the history of our country and of the world. The die is cast irrevocably and there is no middle course. The powers of light must prevail over, or succumb to, the rulers of darkness. Only a miracle can bring peace,” declares Maximilian Harden; “either Germany must be crushed or her enemies must be defeated; there is no alternative.” And Harden speaks the truth,—as we speak the truth when we repeat what we said last month: that at no time since the battle of the Marne has the outlook been as black as it is today. Advantages gained in sporadic battles, such as that of General Byng, only to be lost immediately in full or in large part, avail nothing. Not only in the East, where Russia and Roumania are releasing millions of trained German soldiers for service elsewhere, but on the decisive Western front, the situation is bad, bad, bad.
Cheering assurances we receive without number from honest but incompetent observers, but they have small basis in fact. The allied forces are not in condition to withstand with surety or confidence the terrific onslaught which Germany is bound to make within six months. As we have said over and over again, America must win the war, and there is not a month, not a week, not a day, not an hour, to be lost.
The great crisis may come at any moment between January and July.
It is a fearful responsibility that Fate has put upon the President, and he has the sympathies and the prayers of millions, but it is none the less maddening that he should persist in attempting to bear the whole burden alone. Again we implore him to abolish the latest makeshift for a War Council, comprising overworked heads of departments, charged to meet once a week, and draw to his aid the five biggest minds in the country-men of the calibre of Chief Justice Edward D. White and Elihu Root-and hold them at work every day and every hour that may be within the range of physical possibilities. Surely if, as the President. plainly warned our Allies, unified direction is essential abroad, it is no less a requisite at home.
Readers of this REVIEW need not be reminded that, within a month after war was declared, we directed the attention of the President to the fact that every Power in conflict had been “ driven to this recourse " and depicted as "the overpowering and pressing need ”such a “concentration of direction of manifold divergent forces” as would constitute “a combined sieve and buffer” and enable him to achieve effective co-ordination. Now, after six long months, we read limply in the Washington dispatches that “as the war has progressed the need of a more effective co-ordination of effort has become increasingly evident,” that “heads of departments have looked at problems only with the idea in mind of solving their special difficulties,” and that “this lack of teamwork, with its resultant reduction in efficiency, is responsible for the decision to establish a new War Council,” consisting of the six members of the old Board of National Defense and five additional supernumeraries.
Bitter experience enforced reluctant and belated admission of the necessity, but, alas, the change is not for better, but for worse. The larger the body, of course, the less useful it is bound to be. In point of fact, the new Council is not a Council at all; it is a weekly town meeting “held every Monday morning," when of all times each member should be at his desk. Nobody possessed of a grain of common sense can fail to realize that such a contrivance is useless as of the present and hopeless for the future;-a doubly discouraging circumstance because
What this Government needs is vision.
No whit less vital than the present urgency is heed to the future. Of what avail are “ all the resources of the civilized world” if those resources are not utilized ? Our Allies are dragging into service every conceivable aid in Europe and India and Africa, but they look perforce to the United States to muster South America and Japan, and even perhaps China. The President must realize that; he has vision, splendid, wide and far-reaching; but how can that vision be brought into action while smothered, as now it surely is, in a mass of details?
It is only fair, moreover, to warn the Government that the remark is becoming far too common that everything this Administration does is a partisan, petty and personal. Denying, as we do with indignation, all such accusations, we nevertheless cannot fail to recognize the wisdom, even the necessity, of taking most scrupulous care to lend no color to such aspersions. In a time like this, when feelings are tense and hearts are being wrung, when political ambitions and personal jealousies are rife and when even the flimsiest of excuses are sought by the wilfully discontented, every act of a great leader should not only be but luminously and unmistakably appear to be disinterested and noble. In no other way can a great people be kept as wholly united as the President believes this Nation now to be.
Needless to remark, these reflections pertain only to acts having to do with the practical prosecution of the war which are susceptible of wilful misinterpretation or of unwarranted inference. In power and lucidity of expression the President stands today without a peer,-a fact universally acclaimed in appreciation of his latest declaration and overshadowed only by his amazing ability, unsurpassed since Jefferson, of voicing the inmost aspirations of the American people. To them, of course, in a technical sense, through their Congress, the great Message of December 4th was spoken, but none the less, in reality, it was addressed to the whole world, to our Allies and to our enemies alike. While its chief significance lay in the serving of notice upon the foes of civilization that the Scotch-Irish, American, Presbyterian heel is rooted in the ground, it breathed a spirit of magnanimity for which, in like circumstances, one may search history in vain for a precedent. Humanity was its foundation and democracy its keystone. It was directed “not against flesh and blood but against principalities” and “the rulers of darkness."
Therein we find the underlying and most vital distinction between the thoughts and purposes of the English Marquis and the American President. Lord Lansdowne would treat with the German autocracy, Mr. Wilson with the German people; the one, as the undisputed leader of the British aristocracy, would recognize as an equal only a governing class corresponding to his own; the other, pre-eminent as the head of the greatest Republic, can hear only “the voices of humanity that come from the hearts of men everywhere.” To impute unworthy motives to the most experienced statesman of England, backed not only by his own powerful class which has contributed its all in men and money to the great cause but also by the foremost minds of the Liberal party, headed by Mr. Asquith and Mr. Gilbert Murray, is the height of absurdity. Not lack of patriotism, but the effect of tradition, the point of view, quite likely in no small degree apprehension of the menace to aristocracy signified by the outburst in Russia, constituted the root of Lord Lansdowne's proposal on behalf of a group which would be the last but one in the world to fight to “make the world safe for democracy."
In point of fact, Lord Lansdowne's suggestion of a restatement of war aims as a matter of policy differed in no respect, upon its face, from the actual proposal from Russia which the President's personal representative supported in conference; it was the hidden meaning, the covert assault upon the dashing element now in political control that brought down upon his head the objurgations of Northcliffe and Lloyd George. To our mind the incident, slight as it may seem, presages in England, simultaneously with the return of the millions of soldiers, a fresh outbreak of the unending and irrepressible conflict between classes and masses, between ancient, rooted aristocracy and modern, eager democracy,—a strife from which even an inoffensive and impotent royalty can hardly escape unscathed.
Far more surprising to us than his call for a declaration of war upon Austria, an inevitable happening sooner or later, was the President's thinly veiled threat of economic ostracism of Germany to follow a military settlement. When the fact became known, some two years ago, that a similar programme had been adopted at a secret conference of the British and French in Paris, the outcry against it as unduly and unwisely vindictive was so strongly intensified by the marked disapproval of the American Government that Mr. Asquith and Sir Edward Grey hastily abandoned the idea, and it has never since been heard of. We can picture the amazement of the original sponsors at the revival of the proposition by the President himself in foreseeing “untoward circumstances ” which might render impossible the admission of Germany “to the free economic intercourse which must inevitably spring out of the other partnerships of a real peace.'
That was going far but, even so, hardly farther than what has been generally interpreted as a demand for the overthrow of both the Hohenzollerns and the Hapsburgs as a sine qua non of negotiations. No ultimatum such as that has ever been presented or even hinted at by either Britain, France or Italy; it seems, moreover, to be negatived by the President's plain assertions that we intend no interference in the internal affairs ” of Germany and that “we do not wish in any way to impair or to re-arrange the Austro-Hungarian empire.” It is a nice point at best and one so vital as bearing upon our fundamental traditions, no less than upon our future attitude, that we wish the President might have spoken with such definiteness as would have rendered misconstruction impossible. We are convinced, however, that all he meant to convey was that the United States could have no dealings with a Government whose pledges are worthless or with a vassal of such a Government. There he stands upon solid ground; further he could not go without violating unbroken American policy. How the peoples of the two.countries shall remedy the existing defects, whether by deposing or by controlling their present rulers,“ is no affair of ours”; the only“ ultimatum ” is that it must be done before they can resume their places in the family of self-respecting nations. That is all.
Not the least of the many merits of the great paper are its noticeable omissions. A less sagacious and wide-reaching mind, striving for popular approval, would have been sorely tempted to pile Ossia upon Pelion by recounting at length the specific grievances of individual States. The President did none of this. While depicting clearly a true conception of the inherent right of every well-defined community, great or small, to life and liberty and pursuit of happiness and while voicing sympathy with those who have suffered most and whose opportunities for natural development are unfairly restricted, he did not pretend by even the faintest sug