Page 4, 20th October 1944

20th October 1944
Page 4
Page 4, 20th October 1944 — THE GREAT MISTAKE OF THE WAR
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Organisations: Soviet Government
People: Hitler, Dewey, de Gaulle
Locations: Vienna, Berlin, Moscow, Rome, Paris

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THE GREAT MISTAKE OF THE WAR

RVERYTHING that is happen

ing in the war to-day underlines the gravity of the mistake that was made during its course. That mistake was the failure to stand by our original aims. These aims were most simply expressed in the phrase that we were fighting the Nazis, not the Germans. We were fighting, not to conquer, byt to liberate. We were fighting solely for

the Atlantic Charter and the Four Freedoms.

When exactly the change was made and who was responsible for it is not clear. It Was a gradual process whereby responsible statesmen allowed themselves to be led by what is called public opinion — though this is rarely the opinion of ordinary men and women when these have a chance of giving their real views in a cool and quiet hour. Two factors seem to have been mainly responsible for this tragic change of view and policy. One was the inevitable bitterness caused by the ferocity and hardships of war. Despite the civilian participation in the war—or possibly because of it—this feeling was not so strong during this war as it wa, in the first world war. But propaganda has been more efficient and much more plausible. The chief cause of its plausibility has been that the crimes and cruelties of the Nazis and their paid servants have been real enough. And IL was a, simple mattet to blur the distinction between these leaders and the ordinary people who were involved in a war for their country and therefore inevitably loyal to the existing regime. Nothing could be more ridiculous than to expect a modern people, bred on nationalism. to weaken the country by dividing it during the course of a great war.

The second factor was the Socialist interpretation of the meaning of Nazism

or Fascism. The perfectly clear distinction between gross tyranny and the many different kinds of reasonable human government was forgotten : in. stead the Left generally had long been propagating the view that anyone except a Socialist or a Communist was a Fascist at heart. On this basis the war

became directed against so many kinds of people that only one clear distinc tion was left—the distinction between Ally and enemy. Oddy enough. the most ideological version of the war's character has ended in virtually obliter ating ideological differences, save for a small Socialist rump. We see this in the attitude of Russia itself — though there may still be some hope that Russia in the end will maintain something of a distinction between Nazis and Germans where Britain and America have completely forgotten it.

What Might Have Been HOWEVER the change came about, " its appalling consequences arc all about us. To realise this, let us imagine what might have happened had we stuck to our original purpose. Had we done this, our propaganda throughout would have been aimed at two purposes (1), to divide the Germans and the Italians from their Fascist leaders and armies; (2). to assure the test of Europe that we had no quarrel with them, whatever Germany might force them to do, but that on the contrary our aim was to preserve their independence and their traditions, helping them oly to enter into that wider community of intercourse and trade from which Germany had cut them off.

And this propaganda would have been backed by deeds. We would have realised that it was hopeless to expect the German people to oppose Hitlerism while the latter was triumphant or when Germany was in a danger that

might not yet prove fatal to it. We would have realised also that after the disintegrating political and economic experiences that followed the last war, the order and leadership of Hitlerism had some genuine appeal to make to millions. But against this real background we should have been working, all the time at persuading the Germans of tht evils of Hitlerism and offering them in its place the pattern of a decent Germany in a world become conscious at last of much that needed to be done if eociety was to be adapted to modem social and economic technique. And all this work would have borne its fruit when the Allied armies were at length on the path of victory and approaching Germany, not as conquerors, but as honest and genuine liberators.

With regard to other European countries. we should have made it clear that we fully understood the position they were in. that we took full account both of age-long grievances to redress which they were tempted by Hitler, and of the false leadership of adventurers who would be bound to try to cash in on the initial German victories But in the case of such countries we would suspend judgment until the success of our arms showed them where the ultimate balance of power lay, and meanwhile we would appeal to all elements in those countrica who remained truly patriotic and decent and convinced in their hearts of the impossibility of a peaceful and decent world under Ilitlerite domination.

The Four-Power Pact SUCH was the statesmanlike policy for this war, and we wonder whether history will forgive leaders who failed to steer a sensible and Christian path because they feared " public opinion '' and allowed themselves to dismiss every consideration as irrelevant except the consideration of brutal armed force. In our view the war would have been over by now had this policy been followed. But this is almost less important than the fact that instead of being faced with insoluble problems of peace, we should he finding ourselves moving quietly into a new era big, so to speak, with the digested lessons and experiences of the last thirty years.

The four great countries of Western Europe, France, Italy, Germany and ourselves, would have been naturally united by the common experience or resiatance against what was really and truly evil—against the desperate, brutal short-cut attempt of Fascism to cut all knots by the sword and terror. In Germany and Italy there would have been the makings of a real Government of moderate tendency. France would have been spared terrible internal conflicts, and the divisions Setween those who realised France's dependence on Europe and those who saw that there could be no safe understanding with any Nazism could have been reconciled in the higher policy of a Four-Power Pact for the, preservation of the real Europe. And to such a Pact lesser Powers sharing the common idealism could have been attracted. And with such a political framework the just aspirations of the millions who suffered injustice and economic distress between the wars could have been met in true social-democracy adapted to common European and world needs. Too Late?

IT may be objected : Why bring all

this up now 7 It is anyway much too late. No doubt It is. But it seems to us important that a number of people at least should realise that there is nothing fated in the tensions and distresses of the world. We had the chance. The war's only justification lay in the very

fact that it gave us the chance. And the chance itself was in fact nothing but the sticking to Christian values and to commonsense and to human ideals during the war. It is an object-lesson in the practical, hard-headedness of a Christian outlook, And, whatever happens, these Christian principles remain valid. The present conditions of a Europe divided and divided again, of the triumph. of a force which can only hammer its way, destroying everything in its path, mean that reasonable hopes are temporarily destroyed and that true peace sometimes seems further off than ever. But whatever the conditions, the true goal remains the samc.

Somehow we have got to work to create a unity and understanding among the countries of the Christian tradition. Instead of going back to pre-Fascism Or jumping forward to the last refuge of a new totalitarian post-Fascism, we have got to stand for the middle way, for unity, order and understanding based, first, on the human rights and duties of human beings made by the Incarnation free brothers in Christ, and, second, on the technical conditions of political, social and economic life within which such freedom to-day can alone be realised.

Practical Difficulties AGAINS1 all this the reader may say: Yes, but what about Russia, what about de Gaulle, what about Hanby, what about the Russo-Polish dispute, what about the war-criminals ? In the concrete things are very different from what they can be made to look like in the abstract.

But the principles still hold. The

sound Christian outlook cannot be narrowed to a mere political policy, but on the other hand, it cannot be widened so as to include anything which immediate utility seems to prescribe. Moscow, we agree, is an immense difficulty because it is the one Power which avowedly and really sincerely rejects the Christian outlook as over and done with. Yet if we had known our own business, we should to-day be in a far stronger position towards Russia, better respected by her and we should still have given her all the aid she needed. And can it he denied that a sensible and positive policy towards a liberated Germany would have been likely to prevent the acuteness of the tension over Poland ? And would de Gaulle to-day be as intransigent and as full of zenophobia, had he known from the beginning that we regarded a united and moderate France as the natural pillar Or nexus of a renovated Western Europe ? And it is at least possible that the Christian countries of the Balkans and South Europe would, without the sole reliance oo Tito, be on their way towards common understanding and even federation that might at a much earlier stage have withdrawn Horthy from the German arm. Certainly this would have been possible and likely if Russian agreement for real independence within a natural sphere of Russian economic interest could have been oh. tamed. For such agreement we haven't even dared try As for war-criminals and the socalled punishment of Germany—well, it is difficult to defeat a great modern country without punishing her in the

process. Indeed, the punishment of war falls far beyond the boundaries of the enemy country. The Italian and German people are beiug punished enough in all conscience, and such punishrnent was practically inevitable since there could have been no reasonable expectation of a German revolt until the last moment. War criminals is largely a question of policy and atmosphere. After Versailles the whole idea fell through. It may well be that such punishment shoeld be meted out after this war

to the Nazi leaders and the Nazi instruments. Indeed. to do so empha sises our original distinction between

Nazis and other Germans. And in the atmosphere which -might have existed had our national policy been sound and Christian throughout, it would have been far easier to find just principles by which the goats could be selected from the sheep. Maybe, too, in those conditions the sheep themselves would have been well pleased to have the job of separating the goats from among themselves.

THE GATEWAY TO EUROPE

RUSSIA to-day stands at the great southern gateway into the old Europe. The westward

drive of its armies and the disintegration of German satellites, including now Hungary, has been so successful that it is possible now to say that Vienna itself comes into the picture as an objective. A Russian occupation of Vienna will be much more significant than a similar occupation of Berlin The name of Vienna is woven into the very texture of continental history. Only Rome and Paris can vie with it as European capitals. That Russia is now at this gateway to the West creates a situation which will make the present phase of the war one of those decisive moments on which the future historian will hinge his story of Western civilisation.

The relations between the Allies and the Polish question comes to a head just at the moment when, in other parts of the theatre of war, the impact on central Europe of Soviet Russia has reached its acutest stage.

Looking eastwards to there are problems. Russia is said to have changed its policy with regard to Persia. In 1921 the Soviet Government annulled Persian debts contracted with Czarist Russia and surrendered all concessions, declaring that it was opposed to " the colonial policy of capitalism." At the present time it is proposing to acquire concessions in Persia.

The keen interest of the United States in the oil supplies of the Middle East has been made clear. When Mr. Dewey, Presidential candidate, asks for unlimited immigration of Jews to Palestine, he is not only prompted by humanitarian motives. He has in mind the large number of votes and powerful influence which the Jews exercise in America and he shares the awakening which has taken place in America to the commercial and strategic importance of the Middle East, and in parti

cular of its oil resources. British interests and the pan-Arabic movement add further complexities.

The Middle East is, indeed, second only to central Europe in importance.




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