Some Current Misconceptions Analysed
IBy Douglas Jerrold At the Editor's request, Mr. Douglas Jerrold is expressing in these Week by Week articles his own independent views, which are not necessarily those of the CATHOLIC HERALD.
THE war is taking at last its real shape; the war of Atlantic sea power against a Continental system. the war of a maritime empire dependent on sea-borne commerce against a land power seeking to neutralize its loss of ocean-borne commerce by conquests
directed to securing self-sufficiency. .
We have suffered long from our neglect of the classical doctrines of sea power. We have regarded the Navy too much as a vehicle for transporting armies and supporting them by coastal operations, and too little as a vehicle for transporting goods. not necessarily or always munitions for land warfare, but all goods necessary to preserve the health. wealth and happiness of our peoples here and overseas.
At the moment, the threat of invasion. combined with the existence in the Mediterranean of a hostile " fleet in being," limits severely our capacity to maintain our sea-borne trade at the highest possible level. Further, our deficiency in military equipment, using the term in its widest sense, means that a great deal of our cargo space must be devoted to munitions of war or raw materials for their manufacture. Nevertheless, the clearances in and out of our ports are a triumphant vindication of our sea power and a proof that, if that power can be developed and exercised to the full, we shall win the war.
No one, I hope, doubts that this can and will be done. We must hope, however. since the miseries inflicted by the Germans on the body and soul of Europe cry to Heaven, that we shall take the shortest and not the longest way to the pre-destined victory. The shortest way is the establishment of the absolute command of the sea routes of the world by the destruction of the enemy's naval forces. The convoying of food and munitions, the resistance to invasion, the harassing of the enemy by persistent air rids, are necessary today to our own safety. They are, however, weapons of defence, and passive weapons at that. They do not impose, and never can impose. our will upon the enemy; they merely prevent the enemy exercising his will on us. We must beware of becoming defence-minded. I should like to see the National Savings Committee's slogan changed from " Lend to Defend " to " Lend to Attack."
We can learn a lesson from the fate of France. In the war of 1914-18 the French Army, trained in the doctrines of Ferdinand Foch, was committed to the gospel of the attack. Foolish wouldbe clever critics in this country have spent the last twenty years ridiculing Foch's teaching and pointing out the disastrous losses suffered by the French in the first weeks of the war, notably in their ill-judged offensive in the North-East. What was significant was not these losses, tragically unnecessary as they were, but the fact that the spirit of France, bred to the doctrine of the offensive, taught that sacrifices and suffering were necessary to victory, survived the losses undaunted and persisted in the offensive uninterruptedly until the victory was won. So does sound doctrine triumph even over the maladroit application of its principles.
It was the false doctrine of the defensive which destroyed the French army in this present war. No people, not even our own, can survive if it pins its faith to the degrading doctrine of " Safety First." We have to learn to see and value security as a necessary military principle the observance of which is necessary to the success of the offensive—that much but nothing more.
ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS IN SEA SECURITY THE two essential elements in security at sea are numbers, first and foremost, and secondly. fighter aircraft for the protection of our harbours and naval bases and our fleets and convoys at sea. But these things will not bring us victory, which can only be achieved by the destruction of the enemy's sea power, which does not consist of submarines and other dangerous small craft, but of the German and Italian battle fleets.
As long as these remain, the enemy small craft will continue to harass us. Onee they are destroyed, the strategical situation is reversed. Time will really be on our side then—today it is not—and the strategical initiative will be ours. Germany. waiting for us to strike and ignorant of the direction of our effort, will be thrown from the offensive to the defensive. Then will be the time for speechmaking and for the subtler arts of propaganda.
The popularity of the doctrine of the defensive, the mysterious and irrational belief that time is already on our side, is our chief danger today, and the longer Germany's attack on these islands is postponed, the greater that danger becomes.
Already the voice of the boaster can be heard : " Hitler dare not attack us." Let these foolish people try to understand that Germany has already attacked us. She has forced us on to the defensive. She has compelled us to spend tens of millions on purely defensive measures and to immobilize and de-industrialize hundreds of thousands of men and women in defensive occupations which, necessary as they are, cannot help us in any way to the final victory.
In other words, we have been driven to a great concentration of energy at home on the negative tasks of defence, and have had imposed on us a dangerous dispersal of our forces in other parts of the seas and throughout the empire. All that has to be altered, before we are on the road to victory.
Altered it will be. It is in process of alteration now. The public must, however, be on its guard not against optimism—there is every ground for it—but against the pessimism enshrined in the dangerous and delusive doctrines of the defensive.
Unconsciously some of our leaders foster these delusions. This is partly because they underestimate the fibre of our people and picture them shivering in their shoes at the thought of a raid on this country whether by sea or air. The British peoples, on the contrary, have courage in plenty and fully realize that the efficient prosecution of the offensive at sea may make it necessary for them to suffer increased risks at home.
A SERIOUS ERROR THERE is, however, another current political error which is much
more serious. The political trade-union is a very powerful one. The presence of so many exiled politicians in London naturally affects their British confreres and they listen with eager sympathy to the ofttold tales, heard from every emigre since the dawn of history, of impending national uprisings against existing European regimes.
Let us be blunt here. If there is one lesson which history teaches us, it is that while no revolutionary government ever lasts (and the present governments of Europe are nearly all in their character revolutionary) its place is never taken by the regime it displaced. The Europe of the future will be neither the Europe Hitler has built nor the Europe which he destroyed.
Monarchies are more enduring, because they are more adaptable, than political regimes.
We may hope and expect the restoration of the Dutch and Norwegian monarchies, but the exiled and fugitive politicians from half a dozen countries who are so busy today instructing the British and American peoples are extremely unlikely to return to power in their native lands in any circumstances. The new Europe will have no more need of the men of 1930 who led Europe blindly to catastrophe than of the Quislings of 1940.
Europe will rise in time against Germany as it rose against Napoleon, but the risings when they come will be spontaneous; they will not be organised by the emigres and if they are they will fail. In any case the time is not yet. The desperate risks of conspiracy— attractive enough when conducted from the Ritz or from Claridge'swill prove a deterrent until the strategical situation is itself revolutionized. until we have cleared the seas and until Hitler is thrown back on a puzzled and sterile defensive.
Until that time, the less we say and do about continental politics the better. It is no good pretending that there is an easy way out. 'I he appeal has been made to force, and force will decide,
WE ARE NOT FIGHTING FOR WORLD REVOLUTION
ATHIRD line of argument very weakening to that united determina tion to carry the fight to the enemy which is the pre-requisite of victory, is particularly popular with certain politicians of the Left. These men protest their patriotism loudly, and certainly it would be unreasonable to doubt their detestation of Hitler's policy. Nevertheless, it is disquieting to read that we are fighting for the world revolution and the ideas of 1789, and it will certainly not enhance our prestige in the remaining neutral countries. Least of all will this kind of rubbish impress 'Moscow. Indeed, if Moscow believed that these people had any following, the consequences of their propaganda would be fatal, for Moscow would at once conclude that we were divided about our war aims. We are not in the least divided.
There is no one in the Army or the Navy or the Air Force who is fighting for the world-revolution; the whole of our people are fighting against the attempt to turn Europe into a police-state controlled by political gangsters. To substitute one set of gangsters for another is the last thing any Englishman wants to do or intends to allow. We are delighted to have the support of our handful of " world revolutionaries " in our national war against Germany, but they will support us best by joining the armed forces and keeping their mouths shut, and their ink-bottles firmly closed. And those who are above military age can surely find some useful form of national service. Everything outside the Ministry of Information should be, and no doubt is, open to them.
We must again and again remind ourselves that we are engaged on a naval, not on a political war. We are talking far too much politics and attaching far too much importance to the political utterances of people here and abroad. The past political record of Our War Cabinet (the Prime Minister always excepted) can be very easily attacked. So can the records of those Left-Wing extremists who are now putting themselves forward as super-patriots.
Why waste time elucidating the obvious? Any reconstruction of the Government which will give us sooner what we need to impose our will upon the enemy—a vastly increased fleet and a definite air supremacy—is desirable. Those who try to mix up politics with the still necessary strengthening of the executive direction of our war effort are not helping but hindering our effort very badly.
And an even more dangerous form of Fifth Column activity is the attempt to take advantage of the war to force upon the British people policies against which they have repeatedly pronounced at the polls and which have nothing to do with the prosecution of the war. Why, for instance, do we want to take powers to open the gaols, of all places, in this particular national emergency? To enable the executive to set aside the decision of the Courts is a strange contribution to the fight for liberty.