LEINSTER LEADER EDITORIAL 29 JANUARY 1916

by ehistoryadmin on February 3, 2016

LEINSTER LEADER 29 JANUARY 1916

AMERICA AND THE WAR

The attitude of the United States since the outbreak of the war has on more than one occasion obtained much prominence at different stages of the struggle, and the possibilities of intervention on the side of the Allies even mooted on such occasions as the sinking of the Lusitania. While this and other minor incidents produce official protests and strong feelings of public indignation in the States leading to the exchange of international Notes with the Germanic powers, and gave rise to all sorts of speculations as to what was about to happen, there have been other occasions when questions relating to contraband of war and the rights of America trading with belligerents, brought the Government of the latter into conflict with British conceptions of neutrality. Then again, it is manifest from newspaper reports and comments that public opinion in the United States has been exploited by pro-German and anti-German intrigues and influences, all of which serve to create a confusion of thought on this side of the Atlantic as to the real position and a purely American outlook on the situation arising from the European struggle. It may not, therefore, be amiss to obtain a glimpse of this situation as viewed from the purely American standpoint, and to endeavour to realise the motives and ideals which sway the Great Republic of the West in its attitude towards the European outbreak, and the effects it has produced on the American mind. This it need scarcely he added, has a peculiar interest for Ireland, bound up as it is by the closest ties of kinship with the Greater Ireland Beyond the Seas, where so many of our kith and kin have in the past been forced to seek a home and a living denied them at home, and where many of them and their descendants have raised themselves to positions of authority, dignity and affluence. The cosmopolitan character of the population of the United States is often regarded on this side of the Atlantic as one of its weakest attributes as a world power, but that there is such a thing as a deep and passionate American patriotism – the very soul of greatness in nationality and independence is beyond all question, and neither its past history nor its present position and cohesion bears out the accuracy of the above assumption. The American people prefer to regard this cosmopolitanism as one of its greatest bulwarks as a great nation, and the entire continent of Europe as the parent of American nationality. One immediate effect of the European war, and the series of international events which have led up to it, on the American mind in its outlook is that the world’s immediate future is largely of intense military rivalry for racial and territorial and commercial advantage, and this is based to a large extent on the writings and pronouncements of great statesmen and rulers. That it is accepted by the whole governments and peoples would appear from the very nature and origin of the present conflict. The first and paramount principle inculcated by American patriotism is resistance to wrong as a duty, and by force if necessary. Discussing this first principle and duty of American patriotism Wm. Hard, in the course of an article in “Everybody’s Magazine,” says, that it is through this principle that America acquired most of the territory of which it is possessed today. Certain other stretches of territory has been acquired by purchase or through arbitration. The United States possesses no territory taken by force from any people who were giving to that territory the elementary gifts and rights of justice and security demanded by the spirit of the times. It is further disclaimed that America is a militaristic nation, or a “governing” one. In every stretch of territory conquered, self-government has been set up, and as proof of this is the free Parliamentary institutions of the Philipines and Cuba are referred to as cases in point. The three ideals which American patriotism aims at are, therefore, to resist wrongs to acquire territory in the course of such resistance only from hands utterly unable to control it: and then to set that territory a once on its way towards self control. This in effect leads to and sums up the greatest American national determination known as the Monroe Doctrine which seeks to prevent the military rivalry idea, and the governing and governed idea from overwhelming weakened neighbours, and from in what way endangering their own peace and setting bounds to the extension of European power in Latin America. The maintenance of, and adherence to, this doctrine is as fixed today in the American mind as ever it was, and is in fact regarded now more than ever as a necessity and an assurance of American independence and freedom from possible embroiling in European conflicts. The Yellow Peril is another danger with which American ideals has to reckon, and the position created by Labour influences in this direction is a problem which is calculated in the councils entrusted with the control of the foreign relations of the States. These factors in brief sum up the American position in its conceptions of the maintenance of its rights and privileges and in working out its destiny and aspirations as a great world-power. As to the immediate effects of the European war, on the ideals the achievement of which America puts before itself, preparation to meet possible attack from any side is the dominating spirit of the day, and the recent announcement of the programme for the building up and reconstruction of the navy, and the creation of an army sufficient to meet such eventualities as may arise, gives point to this. But there are other forces and influences at work in the civil life of the country which further emphasises this spirit. The European war has shown America that universal goodwill is a sentiment worthy of practice, perhaps, but utterly unreliable, and discounted when it comes to clashing of interests amongst the nations. The nations are not less worthy than they were, and America has to adjust herself to conditions as she finds them. Therefore, in a nation of a hundred millions, she no longer finds security in a mobile army of thirty-one thousand scattered over her three and one-half million square miles. A trained citizen army is, therefore one of the probable results of this realization of national security, together with an organisation of the vast natural resources which the country possesses, to enable her to withstand possible attack. At such a moment, American citizens are turning again to the mainsprings of patriotism provided by their past history, and drinking in those truths and exhortations delivered by America’s greatest statesmen and patriots, with a wisdom and insight into the course of human history, which, read at this juncture, seem almost inspired. Washington’s words to Congress in 1793, would seem particularly applicable to present day needs, as regarded by Americans. “I cannot recommend to your notice,” he said, “measures for the fulfillment of our duties to the rest of the world, without again pressing upon you the necessity of placing ourselves in a position of complete defence. There is a rank due to the United States among nations which will be withheld, if not absolutely lost, by the reputation of weakness. If we desire to avoid insult we must be able to repel it; if we desire to secure peace, one of the most powerful instruments of our rising prosperity, it must be known that we are at all times ready for war. That the warnings and advice contained in this exhortation is taken to heart and given effect to by the present generation of Americans is indicated by the manifold activities at present in operation for placing the country in a state of defence and preparedness. Leagues and societies are being organised for this purpose, and for educating public opinion as to the needs of the hour. The pioneer amongst these educational institutions is the Navy League formed in 1901, and having for its object the insurance of the United States against invasion. A Woman’s Section of this League, formed last July, obtained a membership of 8,000 in the first month of its existence, and it is estimated that the signatures of 100,00 women will confront Congress to induce it to adopt the programme for the establishment of “a navy second to none.” In like manner, the Army League has similar aims while such institutions as the National Security League has for its propaganda the education of public opinion as to the dangers of unpreparedness, the economy of security, and the circulation of facts and reports of all kinds relating to National Defence. Memberships of the American Legion offers to all an opportunity of serving in some of the various capacities that may be utilised in modern warfare, which includes almost every human activity. The Society for National Defence implies in its title the objects it has before it; but one of its practical proposals towards the end it aims at is the organisation of the National Aeroplane Fund. These and several other organisations serve to indicate the manner in which American patriotism has been roused by the events of the day, and the attitude which it assumes towards possible developments arising from these in safeguarding the future inviolability of American independence, and its position as a great power. What this position is going to be is anticipated by H. G. Wells in one of a series of articles contributed to Cassell’s Magazine, under the title “What’s Coming in the Future.” Discussing the possibilities of a permanent world peace, and the creation of a supreme power or authority to prevent the recurrence of such a calamity as that which has befallen Europe, he ventures the prediction of the existence of but three great world powers consisting of collections of present great states and nations. One of these, he anticipates, will be a collection of the central European powers, with Germanic ideas of development dominating the world; a number of Allied Anti-German States opposed to this, and a Pan-American power, representative of the peoples of the Western World. The position and attitude of America in relation to the present conflict and the future which such writers and thinkers as those quoted predicts for it, therefore, renders a brief review of American thought and activity at this juncture worthy of a consideration, and the few facts which we recount above may help to a better understanding of some of the underlying principles which moves American patriotism today.

Previous post:

Next post: