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Supermen the credit

Will the generation which is fighting this war—such of them as may survive—be content to go back to the old barren wrangle when it is done? Will those others who have lost husbands, sons, brothers, friends—all that was dearest to them except the honour and safety of their country—will they be found willing to tolerate the idea of trusting their destinies ever again to the same machines, to be driven once more to disaster by the same automatons? To all except the automatons themselves—who share with the German Supermen the credit of having made this war—any such resumption of business on old-established lines appears incredible. There is something pathetic in the sight of these huckstering sentimentalists still crying their stale wares and ancient make-believes at the street corners, while their country is fighting for its life. They remind one, not a little, of those Pardoners of the fourteenth century who, as we read in history books, continued to hawk their Indulgences with unabated industry during the days of the Black Death.

It is necessary to offer a few words of explanation as to how this book came to be written. During the months of November and December 1912 and January 1913, various meetings and discussions took place under Lord Roberts's roof and elsewhere, between a small number of persons, who held widely different views, and whose previous experience and training had been as different as were their opinions.

Our efforts were concerned with endeavouring to find answers to several questions which had never been dealt with candidly, clearly, and comprehensively in the public statements of political leaders. It was clear that there was no 'national' policy, which the British people had grasped, accepted, and countersigned, as was the case in France. But some kind of British policy there must surely be, notwithstanding the fact it had never been disclosed. What were the aims of this policy? With what nation or nations were these aims likely to bring us into collision? What armaments were necessary in order to enable us to uphold this policy and achieve these aims? How, and when, and where would our armaments be required in the event of war? Assuming (as we did in our discussions) that our naval forces were adequate, was the same statement true of our military forces? And if it were not true, by what means could the necessary increases be obtained?

The final conclusion at which we arrived was that National Service was essential to security. {xviii} Under whatever aspect we regarded the problem we always returned—even those of us who were most unwilling to travel in that direction—to the same result. So long as Britain relied solely upon the voluntary principle, we should never possess either the Expeditionary Force or the Army for Home Defence which were requisite for safety.

It fell to me during the winter 1912-1913 to draft the summary of our conclusions. It was afterwards decided—in the spring of 1913—that this private Memorandum should be recast in a popular form suitable for publication. I was asked to undertake this, and agreed to do so. But I underestimated both the difficulties of the task and the time which would be necessary for overcoming them.

When we met again, in the autumn of that year, the work was still far from complete, and by that time, not only public attention, but our own, had become engrossed in other matters. The Irish controversy had entered upon a most acute and dangerous stage. Lord Roberts put off the meetings which he had arranged to address during the ensuing months upon National Service, and threw his whole energies into the endeavour to avert the schism which threatened the nation, and to find a way to a peaceful settlement. Next to the security and integrity of the British Empire I verily believe that the thing which lay nearest his heart was the happiness and unity of Ireland.

It is needless to recall how, during the ensuing {xix} months, affairs in Ireland continued to march from bad to worse—up to the very day when the menace of the present war suddenly arose before the eyes of Europe.

During August 1914 I went through the old drafts and memoranda which had now been laid aside for nearly a year. Although that very thing had happened which it had been the object of our efforts to avert, it seemed to me that there might be advantages in publishing some portion of our conclusions. The form, of course, would have to be entirely different; for the recital of prophecies which had come true, though it might have possessed a certain interest for the prophets themselves, could have but little for the public.

Publicerat klockan 03:59, den 21 juni 2017
Postat i kategorin Okategoriserat
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