One would have thought that the lessons of the great European war and the emotions of horror it evoked would have had a restraining influence on the warlike proclivities of the generation that witnessed it, and that a century at least would have elapsed before the memories of that catastrophe had vanished from the minds of European peoples. But already we have the spectacle of a great European nation, with a great Christian tradition, making preparations for a cienflict with a semi-civilised African people; and despite the pretensions that Italy is embarking on a civilising crusade, everybody knows that her real motives arc ones of material advantage.
It is easy enough to discover faults in the character of an enemy : we readily invent moral platitudes to win sympathy and support for our course; but no one can be so utterly devoid of moral discrimination as not to see that a war of aggression is fundamentally wrong; and to offer as a palliation the sentiment of a civilising crusade is to make a sham and a mockery of our civilisation and our Christianity.
The war of 1914-18 was, we were told. a war to end war, a sentiment that arose out of the horrors of the war itself. Scientific civilisation had confined itself to bungling and crude methods of mutual extermination, hut during then we witnessed the ironical tragedy of human intelligence directed to an intensive invention of the most elaborate and effective destructive agents. Pious sentiments floated before our eyes: on one side we beheld people crying to God to give them victory, on the other people crying to God to aid them in exterminating their opponents; and on both sides the cause of civilisation was pleaded. To minds that could detach themselves all these high sentiments and conceits must have been as ' sounding brass and tinkling cymbals."
Now Europe is faced with another possible catastrophe, and we witness in many quarters a moral indifference to the evil of the tragedy itself as well as to the evils of its consequences. As Christians we ought to be sensitive to the moral obli quity of offensive war, and as human beings we ought at least endeavour to prevent it.
To plead that Italy has a " teeming population,". that she needs an outlet. and that under her domination Abyssinia would prove a more congenial arena for the propagation of civilisation. to plead
these things in extenuatien or a war ot
aggression is to plead that a good end justifies an evil means. To plead the pre cedents of other nations. who in the past have thus acquired exteneive colonial possessions, is beside the point; such a plea on the one hand only resurrects the memory of past wrongs and injustices, and on the other betrays the complete bankruptcy of our own moral position.
Italy has no moral right to Abyssinia; and any adjustment or easing of the situa tion that involves the subjection of Abyssinian sovereign rights and a concession of overlordship to Italy is certain to result in more serious difficulties later.