by ehistoryadmin on February 12, 2016

Leinster Leader 12 February 1916


The latest development in the international situation arising from the progress of the war, on which public attention has been centred, is the reported threatened rupture of German relations with the United States. This report was based on the assumption that negotiations between these two powers failed to come to a settlement in reference to the sinking of the Lusitania, and the sacrifice of the lives of many American citizens who were aboard the ill-fated liner when she met her doom, and while sensational press reports were published as to the possibility of war between the States and Germany. It was all along evident to the more observant that while the situation presented some difficulties, these were not beyond the range of re-adjustment by diplomacy. It is not the only occasion on which the United States was declared to be developing such anti-German hostility that nothing short of war would appease it; but when these occasions passed and the States retained its original position of neutrality, disappointment, and disgust followed, and such a revulsion of feeling has set in that “our American cousins” have been taunted with timidity, and with being “too proud to fight.” But ill-concealed hopes of American intervention in such a grave crises for the safety of the empire, when disappointment, and leading to exhibitions of disgust and chagrin, only serve to increase the humiliation of it, and jibes and taunts will not blind impartial observers as to the real situation. The situation, as far as the American attitude is concerned is one of the strict neutrality, and preparation to resist aggression. While the sinking of the Lusitania may be an act opposed to all notions and conceptions of civilized “warfare,” it was not after all, beyond the range of diplomatic settlement, and therefore, did not call for the waging of war by the States on Germany to avenge the lives of lost Americans, and wipe out the slight to American independence. True it is that it was alleged that American honour and integrity as a great world power was at stake, and that no apology or act of restitution for the outrage could compensate for the injury thus inflicted. These were the opinions of the press on the Allies side, but they did not reflect the American attitude on the question, and they may be taken rather as the position which the Allied powers would have the States take up. The owners of the “Lusitania” thought fit to risk sailing the vessel under the flag of a belligerent nation, and if American citizens elected to cross the Atlantic under that flag, and accept the risks of attack by an enemy, that was a matter for their own judgment and discretion. The destruction of the vessel under such circumstances, and the sacrifice of American lives is not dissimilar to the position that would be created in the event of the destruction of a fort in the war zone flying the German flag by British artillery, and which a number of Americans thought it to occupy. In thus discussion the situation created between Germany and the United States, we do not for a moment seek to justify the sinking of the Lusitania, and the wanton sacrifice of the lives of non-combatants and innocent women and children which it improved. We merely endeavour to present the matter as it would appear the diplomatists, bereft of all its pathetic and sentimental circumstances, because nothing but cold facts enter into such negotiations as take place relating to such incidents. This does not mean that national pride, honour and dignity are lost sight of, but in the main facts affecting great principles of State alone are fixed on, and when these are dealt with effectively, subsidiary questions of sentiment, &c., get their due place in the deliberations of diplomacy. These are the preliminaries by which questions of international interests are approached, and to anybody bearing them in mind, the sensationalism surrounding the dispute between Germany and the United States falls aside, and its important points stand revealed and help to an understanding of the real relations subsisting, and the possibility of a satisfactory and peaceable adjustment or the reverse. But there are other circumstances and incidents which have been made liberal use of in the press on this side of the Atlantic to render the international relations between Germany and America appear more strained than they really were. The delivery of a Note to Germany specifying a time limit within which the States required a settlement of the difficulty partook of the nature of an ultimatum, but, when it is remembered that Germany had on hands more pressing problems in the conduct of the war, and that a prompt attention to American grievances arising from the sinking of the Lusitania could await a more favourable season. The dilatoriness of complying with American demands may appear in a more reasonable light. At least it could scarcely be construed as a want of international courtesy or ignoring of the terms of settlement required by the United States. While temporising on the part of Germany was, of, course, open to all kinds of construction, it could never be seriously considered that the circumstances were such as to lead to war, between these nations. Another matter which afforded scope for indulging in the discussion of such a possibility was the attitude of President Wilson, who, at the outset, took pains to define America’s strict neutrality, and its position of aloofness and isolation from the quarrels of European powers; and then when the controversy arising from the sinking of the Lusitania had grown rather acute, he became somewhat bellicose in his speeches as to American determination to preserve its prestige, and to prepare towards that end. American domestic politics however, had as much to do with President Wilson’s expletives as any outside trouble, for it must be remembered that positions in American public life have to be attained through the political expediency as in other countries, and the elements that go to form the American electorate have their party prejudices and predelictions to be played upon towards that end. A departure from a set line of policy may be, therefore, pardonable and appreciated when read in the light of passing political events, to which aspirants to positions of trust and emoluments have to attune themselves. This is quite compatible with American public life and while it may rouse the ire of political opponents. It has no bearing whatsoever on the larger issues of patriotism emanating from possible external danger to the aversion of which Americans can stand united when confronted there-with. The possibility of American intervention in the war by an outbreak with Germany appears to be rendered further remote by two other considerations which it would be futile to ignore here. The first is the power exerted by German influence in the States backed up by an irreconcilable Irish element which although perhaps not very large is nonetheless active and vigilant when such contingencies arise. The second is the state of American unpreparedness to embark in such a course. As we pointed out in such recent remarks on the American attitude towards the belligerent nations, the United States possess a regular army of a little over 30,000 troops scattered over a wide stretch of territory, and while this is capable of being strengthened by a huge citizen army recruited from a large population, it would of course take a long time to train it into a state of efficiency. The navy would be likely to prove useful in the international struggle in the event of naval actions taking place or in patrolling the seas, and assisting in blockades: but as the war is mainly of a military character and likely to be decided by fighting on land, its value would not be proportionately great. As to the possibilities of an immediate rupture between the United States and Germany arising from the controversy respecting the Lusitania, these have now apparently been removed by an agreement satisfactory to both sides, and as to the future, for the reasons enumerated above; the likelihood of such a contingency arising is not by any means apparent. The war therefore will in all probability, be fought out to the end by the powers at present involved, and if one is tempted to indulge in speculations as to the entry of America into the arena of war, other problems confronting that nation in its foreign relations must be probed and studied before reasonable conclusions may be deuced to venture a prediction.

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