I find myself enthusiastic for this war against Prussian militarism. We are, I believe, assisting at the end of a vast, intolerable oppression upon civilisation. We are fighting to release Germany and all the world from the superstition that brutality and cynicism are the methods of success, that Imperialism is better than free citizenship and conscripts better soldiers than free men.
And I find another writer who is also being, he declares, patriotically British. Indeed, he waves the Union Jack about to an extent from which my natural modesty recoils. Because you see I am English-cum-Irish, and save for the cross of St. Andrew that flag is mine. To wave it about would, I feel, be just vulgar self-assertion. He, however, is not English. He assumes a variety of names, and some are quite lovely old English names. But his favourite name is Craft, Maximilian Craft—and I understand he was born a Kraft. He shoves himself into the affairs of this country with an extraordinary 33energy; he takes possession of my Union Jack as if St. George was his father. At present he is advising me very actively how to conduct this war, and telling me exactly what I ought to think about it. He is, in fact, the English equivalent of those professors of Welt Politik who have guided the German mind to its present magnificent display of shrewd, triumphant statecraft. I suspect him of a distant cousinship with Professor Delbruck. And he is urging upon our attention now a magnificent coup, with which I will shortly deal.
In appearance Kraft is by no means completely anglicised himself. He is a large-faced creature with enormous long features and a woolly head; he is heavy in build and with a back slightly hunched; he lisps slightly and his manner is either insolently contemptuous or aggressively familiar. He thinks all born Englishmen, as distinguished from the naturalised Englishmen, are also born fools. Always his manner is pervaded by a faint flavour of astonishment at the born foolishness of the born Englishmen. But he thinks their Empire a marvellous accident, a wonderful opportunity—for cleverer people.
So, with a kind of disinterested energy, he has been doing his best to educate Englishmen up to their Imperial opportunities, to show them how to change luck into cunning, take the wall of every other breed and swagger foremost in the world. 34He cannot understand that English blood does not warm to such ambitions. When he has wealth it is his nature to show it in watch-chains and studs and signet-rings; if he had a wife she would dazzle in diamonds; the furniture of his flat is wonderfully “good,” all picked English pieces and worth no end; he thinks it is just dulness and poorness of spirit that disregards these things. He came to England to instruct us in the arts of Empire, when he found that already there was a glut of his kind of wisdom in the German universities. For years until this present outbreak I have followed his career with silent interest rather than affection. And the first thing he undertook to teach us was, I remember, Tariff Reform, “taxing the foreigner.” Limitless wealth you get, and you pay nothing. You get a huge national income in imported goods, and also, as your tariff prevents importation, you develop a tremendous internal trade. Two birds (in quite opposite directions) with the same stone. It seemed just plain common sense to him. Anyhow, he felt sure it was good enough for the born English....
He is still a little incredulous of our refusal to accept that delightful idea. Meanwhile his kind have dominated the more docile German intelligence altogether. They have listened to the whisper of Welt Politik, or at least their rulers have attended; they have sown exasperation on every 35frontier, taken the wall, done all the showily aggressive and successful things. They were the pupils he should have taught. A people at once teachable and spirited. Almost tearfully Kraft has asked us to mark that glorious progress of a once philosophical, civilised, and kindly people. And indeed we have had to mark it and polish our weapons, and with a deepening resentment get more and more weapons, and keep our powder dry, when we would have been far rather occupied with other things.
But amazingly enough we would not listen to his suggestion of universal service. Kraft and his kind believe in numbers. Even the Boer War could not shake his natural aptitude for political arithmetic. He has tried to bring the situation home to us by diagrams, showing us enormous figures, colossal soldiers to represent the German forces and tiny little British men, smaller than the army figures for Bulgaria and for Servia. He does not understand that there can be too many soldiers on a field of battle; he could as soon believe that one could have too much money. And so he thinks the armies of Russia must be more powerful than the French. When I deny that superiority—as I do—he simply notes the fact that I am unable to count.
And when it comes to schemes of warfare then a kind of delirium of cunning descends upon Kraft. He is full of devices such as we poor fools cannot invent; sudden attacks without a declaration of 36war, vast schemes for spy systems and assassin-like disguises, the cowing of a country by the wholesale shooting of uncivil non-combatants, breaches of neutrality, national treacheries, altered dispatches, forged letters, diplomatic lies, a perfect world-organisation of Super-sneaks. Our poor cousin, Michael, the German, has listened to such wisdom only too meekly. Poor Michael, with his honest blue eyes wonder-lit, has tried his best to be a very devil, and go where Kraft’s cousin, Bernhardi, the military “expert,” has led him. (So far it has led him into the ditches of Liège and the gorges of the Ardennes and much hunger and dirt and blood.) And Kraft over here has watched with an intolerable envy Berlin lying and bullying and being the very Superman of Welt Politik. He has been talking, writing, praying us to do likewise, to strike suddenly before war was declared at the German fleet, to outrage the neutrality of Denmark, to seize Holland, to do something nationally dishonest and disgraceful. Daily he has raged at our milk and water methods. At times we have seemed to him more like a lot of Woodrow Wilsons than reasonable sane men.
And he is still at it.
Only a few days ago I took up the paper that has at last moved me to the very plain declarations of this article. It was an English daily paper, and Kraft was telling us, as usual, and with his usual 37despairful sense of our stupidity, how to conduct this war. And what he said was this—that we have to starve Germany—not realising that with her choked railways and her wasted crops Germany may be trusted very rapidly to starve herself—and that, if we do not prevent them, foodstuffs will go into Germany by way of Holland and Italy. So he wants us to begin at once a hostile blockade of Holland and Italy, or better, perhaps, to send each of these innocent and friendly countries an ultimatum forthwith. He wants it done at once, because otherwise the Berlin Krafts, some Delbruck or Bernhardi, or that egregious young statesman, the Crown Prince, may persuade the Prussians to get in their ultimatum first. Then we should have no chance of doing anything internationally idiotic at all, unless, perhaps, we seized a port in Norway. It might be rather a fine thing, he thinks upon reflection, to seize a port in Norway.
Now let us English make it clear, once for all, to the Krafts and other kindred patriotic gentlemen from abroad who are showing us the really artful way to do things, that this is not our way of doing things. Into this war we have gone with clean hands—to end the reign of brutal and artful internationalism for ever. Our hearts are heavy at the task before us, but our intention is grim. We mean to conquer. We are prepared for every disaster, for intolerable stresses, for bankruptcy, for hunger, for 38anything but defeat. Now that we have begun to fight we will fight if needful until the children die of famine in our homes, we will fight though every ship we have is at the bottom of the sea. We mean to fight this war to its very finish, and that finish we are absolutely resolved must be the end of Kraftism in the world. And we will come out of this war with hands as clean as they are now, unstained by any dirty tricks in field or council chamber, neutralities respected and treaties kept. Then we will reckon once for all with Kraft and with his friends and supporters, the private dealers in armaments, and with all this monstrous, stupid brood of villainy that has brought this vast catastrophe upon the world.
I say this plainly now for myself and for thousands of silent plain men, because the sooner Kraft realises how we feel in this matter the better for him. He betrays at times a remarkable persuasion that at the final settling up of things he will make himself invaluable to us. At diplomacy he knows he shines. Then the lisping whisper has its use, and the studied insolence. Finish the fighting, and then leave it to him. He really believes the born English will. He does not understand in the slightest degree the still passion of our streets. There never was less shouting and less demonstration in England, and never was England so quietly intent. This war is not going to end in diplomacy; it is 39going to end diplomacy. It is quite a different sort of war from any that have gone before it. At the end there will be no Conference of Europe on the old lines at all, but a Conference of the World. It will be a Conference for Kraft to laugh at. He will run about button-holing people about it; almost spitting in their faces with the eagerness of his derisive whispers. It will conduct its affairs with scandalous publicity and a deliberate simplicity. It will be worse than Woodrow Wilson. And it will make a peace that will put an end to Kraft and the spirit of Kraft and Kraftism and the private armament firms behind him for evermore.
At which I imagine the head of Kraft going down between his shoulders and his large hands going out like the wings of a cherub. “Englishmen! Liberals! Fools! Incurable! How can such things be? It is not how things are done.”
It is how they are going to be done if this world is to be worth living in at all after this war. When we fight Berlin, Kraft, we fight you.... An absolute end to you. Yes.