War and Peace in the Light of the Basic and Immediate Causes of the Conflict
IN seeking to apply the principles of Catholic journalism, as we stated them last week, to concrete circumstances to-day, we are of course bound to think almost exclusively of the
war in all its implications. Even questions of social reform and a so-called " new order " necessarily find their present setting in terms of the situation caused by the war. Therefore the present article will be devoted to the war itself and the next to the preparation for a post-war world at home and abroad.
FUNDAMENTAL CAUSES IT seems to us that if we try to study the war in a the light of the Christian tradition, we have to
think of it both in terms of its fundamental causes and in terms of its immediate causes. We need not attempt again to recapitulate what its funda
mental causes are. In the directly religious and moral sphere they have been set out for us authoritatively in the encyclical Summi Pontificatus. On this plane we cannot believe that it is useful or even possible to make far-reaching distinctions between the culpability of the different Powers. We have all thrown aside the compass with which God has provided us in the Christian teaching and in our practical reason (i.e., conscience), and which points the main directions of right and wrong. Even worse the human urge for self-justification has caused us to set up almost as many new compasses as there are nations and people, and by these contradictory man-created compasses we seek to guide ourselves. Further, what might have been only a muddle, limited in scope, has grown to an unprecedented magnitude and frenzy through the technique of modern life which puts the means of quasi-absolute power in individuals, governments, party-caucuses, industrial and financial leaders and enables them by the control of propaganda (wireless, press, advertisement) to condition the minds of the masses in support of their views and demands.
War—and, under modern conditions, total war —is absolutely inevitable so long as the civilised world is divided up into such irresponsibly acting groups each one seeking ends incompatible with the vital interests of the others. Though Christians must always work and pray for it, practical commonsense suggests that there will be no mass conversion to Christian moral standards and ends. Hence the only immediately practicable line of remedy seems to be the gradual realisation by all parties that they are all in fact playing a " mug's game." It does not work. No one gets what he wants and everyone loses most of what makes life at all worth living. Long before this second war had broken out it was becoming obvious that unless those responsible for the fate of the world realised this truth, came together and planned a new world without making national, party or financial interests their first concern, Europe at least was doomed to a long period of anarchy and darkness from which the right solution wo,uld have to be found with infinitely greater difficulty. Nothing that has happened since has made us alter our opinion. Not only is this commonsense; such a change of mind all-round is, in our view, the first step back towards an order that could in time be re-Christianised. Unless we are very much mistaken, this is also the view taken by the Holy Father, and it emerges from the various points he has laid before the nations since the war began.
IMMEDIATE CAUSES THESE convictions do not make us pacifists or defeatists. On the contrary, the views set forth in the above section suggest the futility and tragedy of any one absolute Power succeeding in gaining its own selfish ends. That would simply mean the imposition on others of one set of false values instead of all seeking together for a way out from which all could gain. It might afford a temporary practical way-out, but even this artificial imposed order could not last. Sooner or later the one power would weaken and rival powers would awaken. , Sooner or later war, the misery of anarchy, ' would start again. There is nothing inconsistent in holding that opportunities have been missed in the past and that the fundamental responsibility for the war is shared, and yet that. given the threat of immediate domination by the most dangerous and ruthless of the rivals, it is imperative that by any means, even war, that threat be countered before there can again be hope of any real peace.
And this becomes clearer when we turn from the fundamental causes of the war to its immediate causes. The inevitability of war breaking out sooner or later because of the situation cannot excuse those individuals who consciously and deliberately exploit the situation in order to make the quickest and fullest profit from it without any regard whatever to the most obvious principles of the moral law. And making every conceivable allowance for German, Italian and Japanese claims in a world whose, plums were already shared out by others who had got in earlier, we are still faced, as Christians, with the inescapable truth that these countries intended to stop at nothing—even the deliberate throwing of a whole world into war— in order to obtain their ends. And if anything were wanting to prove the temper of Nazi Germany, it has been amply provided by the manifold evidence of a ruthlessness in dealing with its smaller neighbours, like Poland and Czechoslovakia, that is unprecedented in modern history. To disregard all this or to pretend that there is nothing to choose between the actual and deliberately-intended behaviour of Germany and of this country is to fly in the face of all moral values. •
Hence, the general situation (for which we were all responsible) having deteriorated to the extent which it had and Nazi Germany having deliberately sought to exploit it to her advantage without the smallest regard for any morals at all, this country had no option in the end but to make a deal with Hitler at the expense of others or to resist. She chose the o(niiliy) decent course.
CONDITIONS OF PEACE THESE being the convictions of a newspaper that ' is Catholic and British, what war policy do they indicate? Surely two lines of action. The first and most immediate is to support, by every means consonant with Christian teaching, the national resistance, as well as that of other countries who find themselves in a similar position, to the threat of domination in the name of one false ideology. (And when that ideology actually makes a special feature of religious persecution the need for resistance becomes all the stronger for us.) The second, and by no means the less imperlant, is to try to convert this negative resistance into a positive appreciation of the only possible conditions of a sane peace, in view of the fact that the old disaster rendered world war anyhow and at some time inevitable. And therefore, because we believe that a peaceful order could never have been attained unless the nations had realised that they had all been fundamentally wrong and short-sighted in seeking their own ends first, and unless they came together in a totally new spirit, we maintain our conviction that the peace after the war must be on the basis of " let bygones be bygones."
We do not deny the abstract right to punish Germany and Italy and Japan, to disarm them unilaterally and so on—they have asked for it by their conduct—but we are utterly convinced that the exercise of that right would in fact prove disastrous and a mere extension of the pre-war disorder, whereas a policy of " beginning again" in the common realisation of the all-round stupidities of the past might inaugurate a new and happier era for the world. This, we think, need not preclude the international judgment and punishment of obviously responsible war criminals. And because it seems to us less likely that a peace should be made in this spirit after the complete victory of one side, we prefer in theory a peace negotiated by all the Powers, each one taught by the sufferings of war and the impossibility of succeeding by war the futility of a world in which war is the only outcome of international rivalry. In practice, however. we recognise the virtual impossibility of negotiation with Hitler, and therefore it seems inevitable that the war must go on until Hitler and his Nazi,regitne are overthrown. But this condition, while, it seems, a practical necessity, will render a real peace more and not less difficult, for the temptation to exploit the
defeated in the name of right and security will be tremendous. If we do so, we shall be back in 1919 and under much more inflammable conditions.
SEEKING A BETTER UNDERSTANDING I N these matters we believe that we are following the path of Christian commonsense and true patriotism, for the story of the modern world is the story of the appalling consequences to all, and not least to those apparently successful in their quest, of endowing national interests, whether in the political or economic sphere, with the halo of absolute moral right.
The present union of many nations in resistance to Germany, Italy and Japan may be interpreted as some security against the post-war dominance of one ideology and one set of interests, but we cannot, for obvious reasons, avoid considering it a tragedy that the European Continent itself is likely to come under the influence of the one great Continental Power fighting with us, Soviet Russia, Under these conditions, it surely behoves us as Christians to make every effort to influence Soviet . Russia rather than to allow ourselves to come under the spell of ideas widely propagated in i ' Western Europe whose magnetic pole n the past, at any rate, has been Moscow. And we have believed that the search for a better understanding between Great Britain and those European countries still uncaught (or only partly caught) in the Nazi net, notably Spain, Portugal, Vichy France and Eire, is likely to prove of ultimate assistance when the time comes for seeking to settle in the common interest the problems of Europe and the world. Likewise we have believed that the mode of fighting the war on our side, i.e., by avoiding wherever possible acts that inspire misunderstanding, the growth of hatred among ourselves and revenge from others, must ultimately affect the quality of the future settlement. It may be that posterity will see Germany's guilt to have lain chiefly in arousing a spirit of revenge that will take generations to overcome. There is no sense in our wantonly increasing a mutual spirit of hate which must sour the lives of even our children.
And in all this we plead once again that we are following the lead of the Holy Father who, without in any way denying the real rights and claims of individual nations, has the common
interest at heart. Through his help alone is it possible even to conceive now that common, not to say commonsense, interest could once again be raised to a genuine moral level within the pattern of Christendom?