,,AGAINST their wills and their rights "—to use the plain words of the Holy Father — Belgium, Holland and Luxemburg have been drawn into the deadly conflict through the lust, and perhaps despair, of the mad aggressor.
That Germany in her eagerness to come to grips with Britain should have invaded Holland is not so surprising, seeing that she has long disregarded the integrity of neutral countries unhappy enough to lie across the path of her designs. Moreover, the over-running of Holland could never have been in itself a difficult task for Germanys mighty forces, and it is now accomplished. But that she should have wantonly added Belgium to the rapidly growing number of her enemies can only be explained on the supposition that the alternative is inevitable defeat.
It is not by the mere perception of an act of injustice that the human being is moved to the deepest indignation. Many crimes are recorded by the moral judgment, condemned, and then forgotten or explained away. It is the emotional imagery engendered by certain crimes that moves to genuine indignation and action. Now if there was one crime that Germany in this war must have avoided committing, if she retained any interest, even a merely utilitarian one, in the world's moral reaction, that crime must have been the repetition of her aggression of twenty-five years ago. To repeat that action must inevitably have stimulated all the world over the vividest feelings of supreme moral guilt, a guilt, moreover, integrated with the guilt of 1914. The present aggression reawakes the condemnation of those whose recollections of the past have been softened, and the crime of yesterday confirms the enormity of the guilt of Germany to-day. The last war, Versailles and the present war are now intimately linked together in the imaginations even of those who have tried hardest to see Germany's point of view, and even these will find it harder than ever to persuade public opinion that a Carthaginian peace will be as unwise as it is un-Christian. And by the same act the moral cause of the Allies, enriched and spiritualised by the blood of innocent Belgians, Dutch and Norwegians, is elevated to the highest plane.
It is impossible to believe that the Nazis, whose propaganda shows them not to be without a care for world opinion, should have chosen this path without a sense of supreme necessity, and indeed despair at holding out by any alternative plan. And surely we may in charity believe that millions of silent Germans, even though they cannot hear the voice of the Father of Christians, are appalled by the thought of the depths into which Nazi leadership has brought them.
And on the military level the new adventure must be counted as no better than the gambler's last throw. The chances of success are small, yet even such chances are preferable to the certainty of slow collapse. For Belgium is a strong country for her size, and easily aided by the Allies. Behind her territory lie strong fortifications, so that Germany will not have materially progressed if Belgium itself is surrendered. Nor is there any warrant for the hope that the desperate attempt to turn the Maginot Line, even if partially successful, will bring the war to an earlier or more favourable conclusion than did the analogous plan of 1914.
Had Germany been able to continue the war of nerves, to rely upon economic pressure against the financially uncertain Allies, to goad them into making the first move against her centralised position, she could never have been defeated. We may as well admit that truth now. But she has failed first in the war of siege and played into our hands. Already we can be assured that she has not obtained by surprise and guile the immediate advantage upon which she staked all. Already she is facing the might of France and Britain ahead of their great defences. Undue optimism would be out of place, for the hazard of war only ceases when the last battle is won, but every reasonable indication points clearly to an ultimate and perhaps rapid German defeat, the defeat that will rid Europe of the nightmare of Germany's unbroken armed might. Time is not now on her side. She must win quickly or not at all, haunted by the thought that she is without the necessary resources of oil and iron to enable her to apply her pressure indefinitely.
Terrible months are ahead, months in which we in our turn must suffer as Poland, Norway, Belgium, Holland and Luxemburg are suffering, but of the final victory we need have no doubt. Doubt need only begin when the yet harder task of establishing peace begins, and we should never let a day pass without offering up a heartfelt prayer that God, having aided us in battle, may train us by suffering to become Christian peacemakers.