“How war and militarism affect such show social values as the sense of the preciousness of human life; care for child welfare; the conservation of human resources; upper-class concern for the lot of the masses; interest in popular education; appreciation of truth-telling and truth-printing; respect for personality and regards for personal rights.” American Sociological Association
Theodore Roosevelt’s response.
WARLIKE POWER – THE PREREQUISITE FOR THE PRESERVATION OF SOCIAL VALUES
In December last I was asked to address the American Sociological Congress on “the effect of war and militarism on social values.” In sending my answer I pointed out that infinitely the most important fact to remember in connection with the subject in question is that if an unscrupulous, warlike, and militaristic nation is not held in check by the warlike ability of a neighbouring non-militaristic and well-behaved nation, then the latter will be spared the necessity of dealing with its own “moral and social values” because it won’t be allowed to deal with anything. Until this fact is thoroughly recognised, and the duty of national preparedness by justice loving nations explicitly acknowledged, there is very little use of solemnly debating such questions as the one which the sociological congress assigned to me – which, in detail, was “How war and militarism affect such social values as the sense of the preciousness of human life; care for child welfare; the conservation of human resources; upper-class concern for the lot of the masses; interest in popular education; appreciation of truth-telling and truth-printing; respect for personality and regards for personal rights.”
It seems to me possibly comic to fail to appreciate, with the example of Belgium before our eyes, that the real question which modern peace-loving nations have to face is not how the militaristic or warlike spirit within their own borders will affect these “values,” but how failure on their part to be able to resist the militarism of an unscrupulous neighbour will affect them. Belgium had a very keen sense of the “preciousness of human life” and of “the need for the care of child welfare and the conservation of human resources,” and there was much “concern” by the Belgian “upper classes for the lot of the masses,” great “interest in popular education and appreciation of truth-telling and truth-printing and a high respect for personality and regard for personal rights.” But all these “social values” existed in Belgium only up to the end of July, 1914. Not a vestige of them remained in 1915. To discuss them as regards present-day Belgium is sheer prattle, simply because on August 4, 1914, Belgium had not prepared her military strength so that she could put on her frontiers at least half a million thoroughly armed and trained men of fighting spirit.
In similar fashion the question of the internal reformation of China at this moment is wholly secondary to the question whether any China will remain to be reformed internally. A Chinese gentleman wrote to me the other day that he had formerly been absorbed in plans for bringing China abreast of the modern movement, but that the events of the past year had shown him that what he really ought to be absorbed in was the question whether or not China would be able by military preparation to save itself from the fate of Korea. Korean “social values” now have to be studied exclusively through a Japanese medium.
At this moment the Armenians, who for some centuries have sedulously avoided militarism and war, and have practically applied advanced pacifist principles, are suffering a fate, if possible, worse than that of the Belgians; and they are so suffering precisely and exactly because they have been pacifist whereas their neighbours, the Turks, have not been pacifist but militarists. They haven’t the vestige of us “social value” left, to be “affected” by militarism or by anything else.
In the 13th century Persia had become a highly civilised nation, with a cultivated class of literary men and philosophers, with universities and with great mercantile interests. These literary men and merchants took toward the realities of war much the same attitude that is taken in our own country by gentleman of the stamp of Messrs.. David Starr Jordan and Henry Ford. Unfortunately for these predecessors of the modern pacifists, they were within striking distance of Genghis Khan and his Mongols; and, as of course invariably happens in such a case, when the onrush came, the pacifist theories were worth just about what a tissue paper barrier would amount to against a tidal wave.
Russia at the time was slowly struggling upward toward civilisation. She had become Christian. She was developing industry, and she was struggling toward individual freedom. In other words, she was in halting fashion developing the “social values” of which the foregoing extract speaks. But she had not develop military efficiency; she had not developed efficiency and war. The Mongols overwhelmed her as fire overwhelms stubble. The two centuries the Russians were trodden underfoot by an alien dominion so ruthless, so brutal, that when they finally shook it off, all popular freedom had been lost in the soul of the nation seared by torment and degradation; and to this day the scars remain on the national life and character. The chief difficulties against which Russia has had to struggle in modern times are due ultimately to the one all-essential fact that in the early part of the 13th century she had not developed the warlike strength to enable her to hold her own against the militaristic neighbour. The Russian Jew of today is oppressed by the Russian Christian because that Christians ancestor in the 13th century had not learned efficiency and war.
There are well-meaning people, utterly incapable of learning any lesson taught by history, utterly incapable even of understanding aright what has gone on before their very eyes during the past year or two, who nevertheless wish to turn this country into an occidental China – the kind of China which every intelligent Chinaman of the present-day is seeking to abolish. There are plenty of politicians, by no means as well is well-meaning, who find it to their profit to pander to the desire common to most men to live softly and easily and avoid risk and effort. Timid and lazy men, men absorbed in money-getting, men absorbed in ease and luxury, and all soft and slothful people naturally hail with delight anybody who will give them high sounding names behind which to cloak their unwillingness to run risks or to toil and endure.
Emotional philanthropists to whom thinking is a distasteful form of mental exercise enthusiastically champion this attitude. The faults of all these men and women are of highly non-militaristic and un-warlike type; and naturally they feel great satisfaction in condemning misdeeds which are incident to lives that they would themselves be wholly unable to lead without an amount of toil and effort that they are wholly unwilling to undergo. These men and women are delighted to pass resolutions in favour of anything with a lofty name, provided always that no demand is ever made upon them to pay with their bodies to even the smallest degree in order to give effect to these lofty sentiments. It is questionable whether in the long run they do not form a less desirable national type that is formed by the men who were guilty of the downright inequities of life; for the latter at least have in them elements of strength which, if guided right could be used to good purpose.
Now, it is probably hopeless ever to convince the majority of these men except by actual disaster that the course they follow is not merely wicked, because of its subordination of duty to ease, but from their own standpoint utterly short-sighted – as the fate of the Armenians and the Chinese of the present-day shows. But I believe that the bulk of our people are willing to follow duty, even though it be rather unpleasant and rather hard, if it can be made clearly evident to them; and, moreover, I believe that they are capable of looking ahead, and of considering the ultimate interests of themselves and their children, if only they had can be waked up to vital national needs. The members of the sociological societies and kindred organisations, and philanthropists, and clergyman, and educators, and all other leading men, should pride themselves on furnishing leadership in the right direction to these men and women who wish to do what is right.
The first thing to do is to make these citizens understand that war and militarism are terms whose values depend wholly upon the sense in which they are used. The second thing is to make them understand that there is a real analogy between the use of force in international and the use of force in intra-national or civil matters; although of course this analogy must not be pushed too far.
In the first place, we are dealing with matter of definition. A war can be defined as violence between nations, as a use of force between nations. It is analogous to violence between individuals within a nation – using violence in a large sense is equivalent to the use of force. When this fact is clearly grasped, the average citizen will be spared the mental confusion he now suffers because he thinks of war as in itself wrong. War, like peace, is properly a means to an end – righteousness. Neither war nor peace is in itself righteous, and neither should be treated as of itself the end to be aimed at. Righteousness is the end.
Righteousness when triumphant brings peace; but peace may not be righteous. Whether war is right or wrong depends purely on the purpose for which, and the spirit in which, it is waged. Here the analogy with what takes place in civil life is perfect. The exertion of force or violence by which one man masters another may be illustrated by the case of a black-hander who kidnaps a child, knocking down the nurse or guardian; and it may also be illustrated by the case of the guardian who by violence withstands and thwarts the black-hander in his efforts to kidnap the child, or by the case of the policeman who by force arrests the black-hander or white-slaver or whoever it is and takes his victim away from him.
There are, of course, persons who believe that all force is immoral, that is always immoral to resist wrongdoing by force. I have never taken much interest in the individuals who profess this kind of twisted morality; and I do not know the extent to which they practically apply it. But if they are right in their theory, then it is wrong for a man to endeavour by force to save his wife or sister or daughter from rape or other abuse, or to save his children from abduction and torture. It is a waste of time to discuss with any man a position of such folly, wickedness, and poltroonery. But unless a man is willing to take this position, he cannot honestly condemn the use of force or violence in war – for the policeman who risks and perhaps loses or takes life in dealing with an anarchist or a white-slaver or black-hander or burglar or highwayman must be justified or condemned on precisely the same principles which require us to do differentiate among wars and to condemn unstintingly certain nations in certain wars and equally without stint to praise other nations in certain other wars.
If the man who objects to war also objects to the use of force in civil life as above outlined, his position is logical, although both absurd and wicked. If the college presidents, politicians, automobile manufacturers, and the like, who during the past year or two have preached pacifism in its most ignoble and degrading form are willing to think out the subject and are both sincere and fairly intelligent, they must necessarily condemn a police force or a posse comitatus just as much as they condemn armies; and they must regard the activities of the sheriff and the constable as being essentially militaristic and therefore to be abolished.
There are small communities with which I’m personally acquainted where general progress has been such as really to permit of this abolition of policeman. In these communities – and I have in mind specifically one in New England and one in the Province of Québec – the constable and sheriff have no duties whatever to perform, so far as crimes or deeds of violence are a concern. The “social values” in these communities are not in any way affected by either the international militarism of the soldier or by the civilian militarism of the policeman, and on the whole good results; although I regret to say that in each of the two communities I have in mind there have been some social developments that are not pleasant.
We ought all of us to endeavour to shape our action with a view to extending so far as possible the area in which such conditions can be made to obtain. But at present the area cannot as a matter of plain fact, be extended to most populous communities, or even to ordinary scantily peopled communities; and to make believe that it can be thus extended is a proof, not of goodness of heart, but of softness of head.
As a matter of practical common sense it is not worthwhile spending much time at this moment on discussing whether we ought to take steps to abolish the police force in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, or Montréal, because no police force is needed in a certain Vermont town or a certain Québec village. Such a discussion would not help us in the least toward an appreciation and development of the “social values” of any one of the big cities in question.
Exactly the same principle, only a fortiori, applies as regards war. On the whole, there is a much greater equality of intellectual and moral status among the individuals in a great civilised community than there is between the various nations and peoples on earth. The task of getting all the policemen, all the college professors, all the businessmen and mechanics, and also all the professional crooks, in New York to abandon the reign of force and to live together in harmony without any police force would be undoubtedly very much easier than to secure a similar working agreement among the various peoples of Europe, America, Asia, and Africa.
One of the commonest failings of mankind is to try to make amends for failure to perform the duty at hand by grandiloquent talk about something that is afar off. Most of our worthy pacifists friends adopt in this matter the attitude Mrs. Jellyby took towards foreign missions when compared with her own domestic and neighbourhood duties. Instead of meeting together and passing resolutions to affect the whole world, let them deal with a much easier task of regulating their own localities. When we have discovered a method by which right living may be spread so universally in Chicago and New York that the two cities can with safety abolish their police force, then, and not till then, it will be worthwhile to talk about “the abolition of war.” Until that time the discussion will not possess even academic value.
The really essential things for men to remember, therefore, in connection with war are, first, that neither war nor peace is immoral in itself, and, secondly, that in order to preserve the “social values” which were enumerated in the quotation with which I began this chapter it is absolutely essential to prevent the dominance in our country of one form of militarism which is surely and completely fatal – that is, the military dominion of an alien enemy.
It is utterly impossible to appreciate social values at all or to discriminate between what is socially good and socially bad unless we appreciate the utterly different social values of different wars. The Greeks who triumphed at Marathon on in Salamis did a work without which the world would have been deprived of the social value of Plato and Aristotle, of Aeschylus, Herodotus, and Thucydides. The civilisation of Europe, America, and Australia exists today at all only because of the victories of civilised man over the enemies of civilisation, because of victory stretching through centuries from the days of Miltiades and Themistocles to those of Charles Martel in the eighth century and those of John Sobieski in the 17th century. During the thousand years that included the careers of the Frankish soldier and the Polish king, the Christians of Asia and Africa proved unable to wage successful war with the Moslem conquerors; and in consequence Christianity practically vanished from the two continents; and today nobody can find in them any “social values” whatever, in the sense in which we use the words, so far as the sphere of Mohammedan influence and the decaying native Christian churches are concerned.
There are such “social values” today in Europe, America, and Australia only because during those thousand years the Christians of Europe possessed the warlike power to do what the Christians of Asia and Africa had failed to do – that is, to beat back the Muslim invader. It is of course worthwhile to sociologists to discuss the effect of this European militarism on “social values,” but only if they first clearly realise and formulate the fact that if the European militarism had not been able to defend itself against and to overcome the militarism of Asian and Africa, there would have been no “social values” of any kind in our world today, and no sociologists to discuss them.
The Sociological Society meets at Washington this year only because the man after whom the city was name was willing to go to war. If he and his associates had not gone to war, there would have been no possibility of discussing “social values” in the United States, for the excellent reason that there would have been no United States. If Lincoln had not been willing to go to war, to appeal to the sword, to introduce militarism on a tremendous scale throughout the United States, the sociologist to listen to this chapter, when it was read to them, if they existed at all, would not be considering the “social values” enumerated above, but this “social values” of slavery and of such governmental and industrial problems as can now be studied in the Central American republics.
It is a curious fact that during the thirty years prior to the Civil War the men who in the Northern and especially Northeastern States gradually grew to take most interest in the anti-slavery agitation were almost equally interesting in anti-militaristic and peace movements. Even a causal glance at the poems of Longfellow and Whittier will show this. They were strong against slavery and they were strong against war. They did not take the trouble to think out the truth, which was that in actual fact slavery could be abolished only by war; and when the time came they had to choose between, on the one hand, the “social values” of freedom and of union and, on the other hand, the “social value” of peace, for peace proved incompatible with freedom and union. Being men fit to live in a free country, they of course chose freedom and union rather than peace. I say men; of course I mean women also. I am speaking of Julia Ward Howe and Harriet Beecher Stowe just exactly as I am speaking of Longfellow and Lowell and Whittier.
Now, during the thirty years preceding the Civil War these men and women often debated and occasionally in verse of prose wrote about the effect of war on what we now call “social values.” I think that academically they were a unit in saying that this effect was bad; but when the real crisis came, when they were faced by the actual event, they realised that this academic discussion as to the effect of war on “social values” was of no consequence whatever. They did not want war. Nobody wants war who has any sense. But when they moved out of a world of dreams into a world of reality they realised that now, as always in the past has been the case, and as undoubtedly will be the case for a long time in the future, war may be the only alternative to losing, not merely certain “social values,” but the national life which means the sum of all “social values.” They realised that as the world is now it is a wicked thing to use might against right, and an unspeakably silly, and therefore in the long run also a wicked thing, to chatter about right without preparing to put might back of right. They abhorred a wanton or an unjust war and condemned those responsible for it as they ought always to be condemned; and, on the other hand, they realised that righteous war for a lofty ideal may and often does offer the only path by which it is possible to move upward and onward.
There are unquestionably real national dangers connected even with a successful war for righteousness; but equally without question there are real national dangers connected even with times of righteous peace. There are dangers attendant on every course, dangers to be fought against in every kind of life, whether of an individual or of a nation. But it is not merely danger, it is death, the death of the soul even more than the death of the body, which surely awaits the nation that does not both cultivate the lofty morality which will forbid it to do wrong to others, and at the same time spiritually, intellectually, and physically prepare itself, by the development of stern and high qualities of the soul and the will no less than in the things material, to defend by its own strength its own existence; and, as I at least hope some time will be the case, also to fit itself to defend other nations that are weak and wronged, when in helpless misery they are ground beneath the feet of the successful militarism which serves evil. At present, in this world and for the immediate future, it is certain that the only way successfully to oppose the might which is the servant of wrong is by means of the might which is the servant of right.
Nothing is gained by debate on non-debatable subjects. No intelligent man desires war. But neither can any intelligent man who was willing to think fail to realise that we live in a great and free country only because our forefathers were willing to wage rule war rather than accept peace that spells destruction. No nation can permanently retain any “social values” worth having unless it develops the warlike strength necessary for its own defence.
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