estlons of the week
by hnel de in Bedoyere
THE King of the Belgians has shown great spirit and courage in returning to his country in the face of the Socialist-led bitter hostility to his person—an hostility which any impartial observer must surely consider despicable. This opposition is stated to be in no way directed against the Belgian
monarchy. It must therefore he directed against the person of the M Liners+.
Yet no one who has troubled to study the history of King Leopold's acts since the fateful summer of 1940 can come to any other conclusion
than that he acted with noble
patriotism then and withconnsuml
mate dignity ever since.
Belgian constitutional experts may well discuss the precise merits of his decision as constitutional monarch to refuse
to flee his country, his
soldiers and his people in their hour of greatest peril, but the man in the street will hardly ques tion his motives as father of his people and leader of his soldiers.
To the outsider — and in these matters one should be careful not to indulge over-much. as so many da nowadays, in telling other countries how to mind their own business—one of the oddest aspects of the whole affair is the way in which the opponents of the King seem not to tnind in the slightest the consequent inevitable dragging down of their country's reputation in foreign eyes.
Like it or nqt, the King of the Belgians, the son of King Albert, is the symbol of Belgium.
To seek to destroy his reputation in the face of the evidence. and for that matter in the wake of foreign leadership anxious at the critical time to find a scapegoat for their own defeats, in the first place besmirches Belgium in the person of her King and, in the second, besmirches that sect ion of the Belgian people who seem determined to the bitter end to refuse unity and reconciliation. QQ Ails
KING Leopold, as king and as a man, has certainly had every possible right to fight intransigently for the vindication of his honour. He has evidently judged that nothing short of his return to the throne and re-assumption of kingly duties can possibly achieve this end. Who can blame him for this ?
Yet we believe that there are many. not only among his greatest admirers but also among convinced monarchists, where monarchy still remains practicable, who must now ask themselves whether the future of Belgium and its royal house does not now demand the noblest and most patriotic act of all. namely King Leopold's own personal retirement in favour of his eldest soil.
To have abdicated under duress would have been to admit the opposition's charges and conse'quently to involve the royal house in a totally unmerited dishonour.
To abdicate voluntarily, after the return to the throne and solely in the light of a future which must inevitahly he affected by the past. however the past be morally interpreted, might well he high statesmanship.
King Leopold's intention', have not as yet been disclosed. but it may well be that the King envisages such an action, and yet is for the time being deterred from it, not only because Prince Baudouin is under age, but because the undignified behaviour of the Socialists maintains the appearance that any such personal renunciation would be a forced act.
One can only hope, therefore, that wiser counsels will prevail among leaders in other respects not without reputation for statesmanship and patriotism. and that these will put their country and people first. As a result of this, King Leopold would be put in a position to_ judge fairly and freely his future actions in terms of the good of his country.
ANY democratic government is never put into bigger difficulties than during these twilight periods when war becomes a practical possibility and yet the unanimous spirit of a free people prays, hopes and works to prevent the occurrence of the catastrophe.
There is a momentum about war preparations on a large scale which
once started is with difficulty checked, and yet of its own impetus seems to make war more inevitable and so. in one respect, positively encourages it.
Internationally. as has been discussed in an adjoining column. the present situation suggests fairly obvious lines of defensive action
which arc clearly limited M such a twilight period.
Alas. too. it looks as though the very philosophy of Communism as used by Moscow must impose on the rest of the world for a long lime such carefully thought-out and coordinated military defences, The position is, in a way, more difficult when it comes to civil defences in a country like ours menaced in war conditions with terrible and relatively unknown punishment.
IN Monday's debate in the Commons Ministers were clearly anxious to avoid being alarmist and yet at the same time they realised how urgent has become the need to approach the question seriously and effectively. However there is clearly art all or nothing quality about our island civil defences against possibly atomic weapons in addition to the horrors already made too familiar by the last war. One may indeed hope that atom bombs will never be used, as gas was not used last time, but this will probably depend on the adequacy of the measures of more traditional defence which the West undertakes. The risk certainly remains. To put into operation even the skeleton of a civil defence which can do something effective to protect our people betimes from the risks of the future would be an enormously costly business, both in money and in man-power. And if the danger of any immediate war really recedes it will seem to have been a peculiarly useless waste of our resources. Happily. government and opposition appear on these points to be largely in agreement, and one has little doubt that there will be generous response to whatever plans a united political leadership sees to he wisest in the extremely difficult circumstances.
MR. Attlee's disclosure that the recently explosion in ammunition barges was due to sabotage must remind us all that in any future conflict the " fifth column " activities now in one way or another hard at work to weaken " cold " resistance will prove a major factor if and when the resistance becomes "hot." Here again free countries are in a peculiarly difficult position. Prisons and concentration camps are always at the disposal of tyrannies, and these are mercilessly used. Before war as well as during war, the very slightest suspicion of disagreement with the powers-that-be suffices to remove a man, perhaps permanently, from normal life and activity.
For us, this is horrible. Certainly in time of peace one could not envisage anything but the most careful and just measures to prevent serious sabotage, and this despite the fact that the very close interlinking of all aspects and details of defence renders sabotage easier than it has ever been before. As was noted in the Commons, it is possible that the greatest future danger from new weapons will not come from the air at all, but from the activity of enemy agents within the country itseif.
In time of war
E'vEN if and when real war breaks
A out, this country will surely have to face dangers of this order in a degree very notably higher than during the last war.
Fascism never appealed to any real section of our people. and of those who in some way or other felt philofascist the vast majority were thoroughly patriotic when it came to defending their own country. Patriotism, after all, was a genuine element of Fascism, and only the most extravagant, if not insane, interpreted this patriotism as being due only to the country's Fascist enemies.
It is wholly otherwise with Communism. Justifiably or not, Communism and near-Cornmunism have developed into a sort of social religion for many. and loyalty to the Communist ideal certainly overshadows in many cases loyalty to country. While we have little doubt that if it ever came to the point, the larger number of British near-Communists would return to the older loyalty, we must be prepared for a section of disloyal large enough both to be a great danger in itself and set highly awkward and unpleasant problems of internment on mere suspicion.
THE raising of the status to
ambassadorial rank of the British representative in Dublin and the Irish representative in London is a change upon which the British and the Irish can wholeheartedly find mutually congratulatory agreement.
The action undoubtedly symholises the very high respect which all serious people on either side of the Irish Channel have for one another's countries, so closely and so long associated together in very close personal relationships and, in later years, despite remaining political differences, so much more bound together for common benefit than divided by history. Of one thing we are convinced. It will be on the common basis of that mutual respect and personal amity that the remaining problems will he solved. not on the basis of the differences themselves.
By ever returning, whether in Britain or in Ireland, to the grievances, superiorities, inferiorities, whatever they may be, of the past, we only prolong unhappinesses and postpone solutions.
By respect for one another and the positions which both sides for the time being feel to be right and inevitable, we shall unconsciously and steadily make progress towards the settlement which both countries with an easy conscience can call final.