An American correspondent has sent me a cutting from an old number of The World Tomorrow (August, 1928). It is a remarkable article on 'Pacifism and National Security' by John Nevin Sayre, which is worthy of perusal by every patriot. The following opening paragraphs show which way the writer would lead us:
"Pacifism, first of all, asks people to consider whether national armament can
really conduce to security in a civilization which uses the tools of twentieth
century science. No matter what may be said for defence by armament in the past,
we believe that it is an utterly obsolete and extremely dangerous way of
attempting to attain security now. In the world in which we live and in the
decades immediately ahead, it is open to the double objection of (1) mounting
cost, and (2) diminishing effectiveness of defence.
Within the span of forty years, that is, within the lifetime of many, of my readers,
the United States has increased the annual expenditure for its navy from 15
million to 318 million dollars. The last session of Congress passed
appropriations which mean that, every time the hands of the clock traverse
twenty-four hours, the United States spends 2,000,000 dollars for upkeep of the
army and navy. A leading article in The New York Times,
published in March 1927, was headed, War - Man's Greatest Industry'. The writer
asserted that preparation to be ready for war constitutes what is actually the
greatest industry in the world.'
There is also an increasing human cost not measurable in dollars. The machines of war
have to be tended by men. The munitions of war have to be manufactured by men,
and approach is being made more and more toward the drafting of industry and of
whole populations for war service. Once wars were fought by professional armies
which constituted but a relatively small part of any people ; today military
strategists plan to conscript the activity of the entire man power of a nation.
A proposed French law gives power to the State to conscript also the women.
Compulsory military training in time of peace and the invasion of schools and
colleges by military departments run by the Department of War are requisitioning
study time of youth, and tending to regiment youth's thinking. The post office,
the newspapers, the radio, the movies, artists, and men of science are in danger
of being drawn in to give their support to the building of War's preparedness
machine. All this means an increasing cost to human liberty, to freedom of
thought and discussion, to the possibility of social advance. It should be fully
weighed in estimating the price to be paid for putting over an 'adequate'
security programme. Armed preparedness is a huge cost in the present, and for
the future it is mounting.
Even worse is the fact that increase of expenditure for armament does not in the
modern world purchase increase of security. It may do so, possibly, for a score
of years, but the policy is subject to a law of diminishing returns, and leads
straight towards a climax of disaster. Senator Borah in discussing 'what is
preparedness?' recently called attention to the huge public debts and constantly
increasing tax burdens which governments are putting on their peoples throughout
the world. 'The things with which governments will have to contend in the
future,' he said, 'are the economic distress and political unrest of their own
people.' 'A big armament programme,' he warns us, 'will be courting trouble.'
It will widen the breach between the citizen and his Government. It will further
discourage and exasperate those who already have more than they can bear. It
will not be preparedness, for that which accentuates economic distress is
The fashion nowadays is to take for granted that whatever America and England are
doing is good enough for us. But the figures given by the writer of the cost to
America of her armament are too terrible to contemplate. War has become a matter
of money and resourcefulness in inventing weapons of destruction. It is no
longer a matter of personal bravery or endurance. To compass the destruction of
men, women and children, it might be enough for me to press a button and drop
poison on them in a second.
Do we wish to copy this method of defending ourselves? Even if we do, have we the
financial ability? We complain of ever-growing military expenditure. But if we
would copy America or England, we would have to increase the burden tenfold.
Do we first want to copy the Western nations and then in the dim and distant future,
after having gone through the agony, retrace our steps? Or do we want to strike
out an original path, or rather retain what to me is our own predominantly
peaceful path and there through win and assert our freedom?
We are restrained from violence through our weakness. What is wanted is a deliberate
giving up of violence out of strength. To be able to do this requires
imagination coupled with a penetrating study of the world drift. Today the
superficial glamour of the West dazzles us, and we mistake for progress the
giddy dance which engages us from day to day. We refuse to see that it is surely
leading us to death. Above all we must recognize that to compete with the
Western nations on their terms is to court suicide. Whereas if we realize that
notwithstanding the seeming supremacy of violence, it is the moral force that
governs the universe, we should train for non-violence with the fullest faith in
its limitless possibilities. If we are to be saved and are to make a substantial
contribution to the world's progress, ours must emphatically and predominantly
be the way of peace.